Is Franz Sigel an Underrated Commander?

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#1
Is Franz Sigel an Underrated Commander?

200px-Franz_Sigel.jpg

Adam Muenzenberger 26th Wisconsin: " The fault is this: Sigel isn't with us any more, and the others are merely humbug generals."

I have never thought much of Franz Sigel and always deemed him a very poor commander. Recently however I have been reading Chancellorsville by Stephan Sears and it has me rethinking Sigel. Sigel commanded the 11th Corps in 1862 and was known to be very popular. The corps was made up of many German immigrants who liked Sigel and viewed him as a fatherly figure. As commander his performance was nothing outstanding but he did managed to keep the units morale together during the depressing Fredericksburg period.

In early 1863, Sigel was succeeded by Gen O.O. Howard. Howard led the 11th Corps to a spectacular defeat at Chancellorsville. The reason for Howard's defeat rests heavily on the morale of the 11th Corps. Since Sigel's dismissal morale had sunk extremely low, many disliked the new commander. Howard was well aware of his corps feelings and during the campaign was hesitant because of it. Howard failed to heed Hooker's advice to readjust his line to protect his flank. He feared that this move would make morale sunk even lower and the men would perceive any pull back as a retreat. When Jackson's flank attack finally came many men in the 11th Corps chose to simply throw down their weapons and run away.

Looking into the above, I have a new respect for Sigel's abilities. I still don't think he was a good battlefield commander but he seems to have had an ability to maintain his corps well enough. Had he still been in command at Chancellorsville perhaps the rout would not have been as bad....
 
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#3
Could you elaborate on that? My understanding is the 11th Corps fought valiantly and were made scapegoats for the defeat.
It probably varies by unit I have read of heavy resistance but alot of men just ran, Howard called it a "tide". Roughly a 1,000 of the 11,000 men in the Corps were taken prisoner during the initial collapse. Few quotes I pulled from Sears:

"There was no place left us but to flee for our lives."
"everything was fleeing in panic"
"immediately gave way, broke up & ran upon the other troops with such momentum that they gave way too. Such a mass of fugitives I haven't seen since the first Bull Run."
"They run without firing a gun."
"was a solid column of infantry retreating a double quick from the face of the enemy."
"men on foot on horseback on mules, in teams were rushing and piling back for dear life telling all kinds of yarns and we began to think that there was another Bull Run. Some had no caps some not coats all going for dear life, teams and droves of cattle all rushing back to the rear."
"The rest run like deer, saying they wanted Gen. Sigel and no other."

I could see them being scapegoated to an extent alot soldiers didn't like the "dutchmen"
 
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WJC

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#4
It probably varies by unit I have read of heavy resistance but alot of men just ran, Howard called it a "tide". Roughly a 1,000 of the 11,000 men in the Corps were taken prisoner during the initial collapse. Few quotes I pulled from Sears:

"There was no place left us but to flee for our lives."
"everything was fleeing in panic"
"immediately gave way, broke up & ran upon the other troops with such momentum that they gave way too. Such a mass of fugitives I haven't seen since the first Bull Run."
"They run without firing a gun."
"was a solid column of infantry retreating a double quick from the face of the enemy."
"men on foot on horseback on mules, in teams were rushing and piling back for dear life telling all kinds of yarns and we began to think that there was another Bull Run. Some had no caps some not coats all going for dear life, teams and droves of cattle all rushing back to the rear."

I could see them being scapegoated to an extent alot soldiers didn't like the "dutchmen"
Thanks for your response and the excerpts.
 
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#5
It probably varies by unit I have read of heavy resistance but alot of men just ran, Howard called it a "tide". Roughly a 1,000 of the 11,000 men in the Corps were taken prisoner during the initial collapse. Few quotes I pulled from Sears:

"There was no place left us but to flee for our lives."
"everything was fleeing in panic"
"immediately gave way, broke up & ran upon the other troops with such momentum that they gave way too. Such a mass of fugitives I haven't seen since the first Bull Run."
"They run without firing a gun."
"was a solid column of infantry retreating a double quick from the face of the enemy."
"men on foot on horseback on mules, in teams were rushing and piling back for dear life telling all kinds of yarns and we began to think that there was another Bull Run. Some had no caps some not coats all going for dear life, teams and droves of cattle all rushing back to the rear."
"The rest run like deer, saying they wanted Gen. Sigel and no other."

I could see them being scapegoated to an extent alot soldiers didn't like the "dutchmen"
During the early battles of the war in Missouri Sigel's Germans appeared eager to fight against poorly armed and unarmed men. Until they were fired upon. Then they dropped their arms and ran. Sigel was routed by the MSG at Carthage and by the 3rd Louisiana at Oak Hills. Sigel did much better on the other side of the Mississippi once he got to the eastern theater.
 
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#6
Who runs mit Sigel. A phrase used by many in the Union Army in Missouri and elsewhere in the war. before the war he was one of the losers in the 1848 revolution in Germany.He was very influential among the Germans in St. Louis, recruiting many for the union cause. He was routed at Carthage and Wilson's Creek. At Pea Ridge he actually put in his greatest performance, commanding two divisions, and he personally directed artillery fire on the second day of the battle. Brought east for whatever reason, he went back to his losing ways in the Shen. Valley, and after that stellar performance he was given the 1st Corps at 2nd Manassas, where he lived up to his reputation. The as a up and coming upward failure being given command of the 11th Corp, but by then he had a good reputation as a recruiter, and an inept reputation as a general. he resigned for various reasons, and Howard gained command. Halleck, who disliked Sigel did his best to keep Sigel where he could do no harm. In 1864 Lincoln directed Stanton to give him command of the Dept. of West Va. He was defeated by Breckinridge at New Market. He was replaced, and but he did fight Early at Harper's Ferry. After that he was given no command, and he resigned in 1865. He was more than inept, and he should have never commanded nothing over a regiment. He was the perfect example of an upward failure. He belongs in his class with Ledlie and some of the other worst generals of the war, who managed to get more of their troops killed than the enemy. He was a hero to the Germans, and no one else. he knew how to lead troops in retreat, something he practiced in almost every action he was involved in. Who runs mit Sigel.
 
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Sigel was not very talented in the military arena. but he was valuable to the Union as a recruiting tool. Others relied on him to do his job, and he just did not do the job, except once, Pea Ridge. If you do much research on him, you find his failures are clearly brought up, you decide yourself. He did not get the job done. In war he ran or was routed many times. He had an inept reputation as general in the army.
 
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#10
Sigel was not very talented in the military arena. but he was valuable to the Union as a recruiting tool. Others relied on him to do his job, and he just did not do the job, except once, Pea Ridge. If you do much research on him, you find his failures are clearly brought up, you decide yourself. He did not get the job done. In war he ran or was routed many times. He had an inept reputation as general in the army.
Yes indeed. Good for recruiting Germans but not much else.
 

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I was surprised to find out from reading Gettysburg July 1 which I reviewed here recently that on the evening of the first day a rumor was purposely circulated among survivors of the defeated XI Corps that Sigel had arrived on the field to replace Howard as their commander! That's the same principle as the similar rumors being circulated that McClellan was back in command of the Army of the Potomac.
 
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James N.

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#12
Who runs mit Sigel. A phrase used by many in the Union Army in Missouri and elsewhere in the war...
I remember reading a taunt by members of other corps after Chancellorsville and Gettysburg as "I fights mit Sigel... And runs mit Schurz!"
 

Yankeedave

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#15
Howard is an interesting individual himself. Based only on his actions he seems to fight well.
At Chacelloresville him and the 11th corps report all day that a rebel force was moving across it's front and that the corps felt the enemy was assembling of it's flank. Howard wanted to refuse his corps changing the alignment of his right at least. Hooker said no, but that he could make adjustments as long as the corps runs parallel to the road. Howard made the best of it by fronting a brigade south or parallel to the road, then turning the next brigade so it crossed the road and fronted west. Then he had them all dig in and await the inevitable.
At Gettysburg the advance of the aop is hamstrung by the death of reynolds. Howard rides into this.
Doubleday will do little to the first corps or the battle but add troops to his line as they arrive. Doubleday creats a salient and i think howard wanted nothing of it but if Doubleday refuses to fall back Howard has to support it.
The salient on the 11th corps left is defended well by troops the first and 11th. As the 11th's line builds to the right it's low ground till the knoll on the right and all of it's dominated by the high ground across the creek that divides the two forces. imho howard wanted none of this disposition and held back troops at the cemetery. And The 11th corps has troops that are fighting rearguard thru then town. What was left fell in around howard and fought an interesting fight there thru the next few days. In a way they fight great at places they shouldn't be.
 
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#16
Howard is an interesting individual himself. Based only on his actions he seems to fight well.
At Chacelloresville him and the 11th corps report all day that a rebel force was moving across it's front and that the corps felt the enemy was assembling of it's flank. Howard wanted to refuse his corps changing the alignment of his right at least. Hooker said no, but that he could make adjustments as long as the corps runs parallel to the road. Howard made the best of it by fronting a brigade south or parallel to the road, then turning the next brigade so it crossed the road and fronted west. Then he had them all dig in and await the inevitable.
I know Howard and Hooker weren't very fond of each other and I think they were more than happy to let the other take the blame. Their recollections of events seem to vary from what I've read on who wanted to prepare for the coming attack. Honestly though I don't think its either are to blame the delay of Reynold's Corps just left the 11th corps too exposed. Had that communications error not occurred Howard would have been well supported. Chancellorsville itself seems like a comedy of errors the battle was very winnable for the Union.
 
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Jimklag

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#18
Is Franz Sigel an Underrated Commander?

View attachment 148862
Adam Muenzenberger 26th Wisconsin: " The fault is this: Sigel isn't with us any more, and the others are merely humbug generals."

I have never thought much of Franz Sigel and always deemed him a very poor commander. Recently however I have been reading Chancellorsville by Stephan Sears and it has me rethinking Sigel. Sigel commanded the 11th Corps in 1862 and was known to be very popular. The corps was made up of many German immigrants who liked Sigel and viewed him as a fatherly figure. As commander his performance was nothing outstanding but he did managed to keep the units morale together during the depressing Fredericksburg period.

In early 1863, Sigel was succeeded by Gen O.O. Howard. Howard led the 11th Corps to a spectacular defeat at Chancellorsville. The reason for Howard's defeat rests heavily on the morale of the 11th Corps. Since Sigel's dismissal morale had sunk extremely low, many disliked the new commander. Howard was well aware of his corps feelings and during the campaign was hesitant because of it. Howard failed to heed Hooker's advice to readjust his line to protect his flank. He feared that this move would make morale sunk even lower and the men would perceive any pull back as a retreat. When Jackson's flank attack finally came many men in the 11th Corps chose to simply throw down their weapons and run away.

Looking into the above, I have a new respect for Sigel's abilities. I still don't think he was a good battlefield commander but he seems to have had an ability to maintain his corps well enough. Had he still been in command at Chancellorsville perhaps the rout would not have been as bad....
No.
 
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#20
If Hooker watnted Reynolds on Howard's right he would have allowed Howard to chnge fronts, perhaps anchor his left on hazel grove and the third corps and his right on Reynolds.
Sears take on this:

" Hooker was concerned, however, about the army's right or western flank. He thought it should be concentrated and a portion swung back to a more secure position facing west. General Howard, who would be most affected by this, persuaded him to leave the line unchanged out of consideration for the sensibilities of the 11th corps. His men he said would be demoralized by any further pullback."

" Hooker considered it equally incomprehensible that Howard would ignore a direct order to prepare the 11th Corps for a flank attack on May 2nd leaving Stonewall Jackson a virtually clear path nearly to Chancellor house."

"unimaginative, unenterprising, uninspiring, a stiflingly christian soldier, Otis Howard was the wrong general in the wrong place with the wrong troops that day."

If Sears is to be believed that wouldn't have been an option for Hooker. It must be noted though that Sears' tends to pick favorites and has an anti Howard bias. I'm a Hooker fan so It wasn't a problem for me but Howard fans may object.
 



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