Is Franz Sigel an Underrated Commander?

James N.

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#41
… P.S. as an aside, after the disaster in the Valley, the soldiers of other armies, wryly changed the phrase 'I fights mit Segal!' to 'I runs mit Segal' !
As I've said here in the forums before, I've read it as "I fights mit Sigel - und runs mit Schurz!" (Of course that was actually said about the Eleventh Corps by members of the other corps and not by the Germans themselves!)
 

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archieclement

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#42
Surprised no one has mentioned despite having the manpower advantage at New Market 6000 to 4000 he was beat by children.....think that with his previous routs hardly left him as underrated.
 
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#43
I have a bizzare theory of Hooker at Chancellorsville. He invited Jackson's flank attack intending to strike back with the 1st and 5th Corps. When Hooker was wounded the ordering of this fell to Couch who called it off.
An interesting speculation, but the evidence points to the conclusion that Hooker didn't plan to take the offensive at all.
 
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#44
Like several other early war figures such as Carl Schurz, Thomas F. Meagher, and Michael Corcoran, Sigel was most important in encouraging recent immigrants to enlist in the war effort. As I've said here before his best battlefield performance seems to have been at Pea Ridge/Elkhorn Tavern, Arkansas where he was able to put his specialized training as an artillery officer to good use, overwhelming his Confederate opponents with the fire of massed batteries. But his fellow German soldiers loved him, and I fights mit Sigel was their battle cry.
The performance of Union artillery was not particularly remarkable on Day 1 of the battle. I've read some credit Sigel for his work on Day 2, when much of Van Dorn's army had already retreated and Price's Missourians were not attacking, but performing rear guard actions to cover the retreat. Personal narratives from Missourians present on Day 2 do not particularly credit Union artillery effectiveness. I've wondered where this business about Sigel's performance at Elkhorn Tavern came from.
 

OpnCoronet

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#45
As I've said here in the forums before, I've read it as "I fights mit Sigel - und runs mit Schurz!" (Of course that was actually said about the Eleventh Corps by members of the other corps and not by the Germans themselves!)



I agree, your version is much better. IMO, Humor, like history, is usually better the more detailed it is.
 

James N.

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#46
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The performance of Union artillery was not particularly remarkable on Day 1 of the battle. I've read some credit Sigel for his work on Day 2, when much of Van Dorn's army had already retreated and Price's Missourians were not attacking, but performing rear guard actions to cover the retreat. Personal narratives from Missourians present on Day 2 do not particularly credit Union artillery effectiveness. I've wondered where this business about Sigel's performance at Elkhorn Tavern came from.
From Day 2 - As you state, the artillery on both sides wasn't particularly effective on March 7, with the possible exception of the Union battery working with Greenville Dodge north of Elkhorn Tavern; however, things were completely different on March 8. The Confederate batteries spent the entire battle working independently of each other with no one directing them or their fire. Union batteries would've performed in the exact same way, especially seeing as how virtually all of these units were in battle for the very first time, except that trained artilleryman and veteran of the Baden artillery Sigel took command of the Union gun line as described on the NPS sign at Pea Ridge NMP above. For the first time in the war there was coordination of batteries and guns on a Civil War battlefield directing what would be called converging fire upon single targets - individual Confederate batteries and guns - knocking them out sequentially one after the other. Previously, gunners in opposing batteries would simply pick out targets opposite them and bang away with little consideration for overall effect, but this tactic was something new and took their opponents by surprise. Sigel walked the gun line from battery to battery offering instruction and giving encouragement to the green artillerymen. By the time the Union line surged forward as pictured below, all the opposing Confederate guns had been smothered by fire and knocked out or had withdrawn; Hart's Arkansas Battery coming on line to replace Good's Texas Battery so withdrawn by its captain was overrun by Osterhaus" Unionist Missouri Germans and had to flee, losing a gun and limber in the process.

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Yankeedave

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#47
Union artillery gets a bad rap at Chancelloresville. They were committed to poor positions by Hooker who did not understand artillery since he negated Henery Hunt.
 
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#50
I would argue that Sigel's performance at Pea Ridge does not warrant much praise. Earl J. Hess and William Shea call his performance "erratic," but I believe that is putting it mildly (1). Even his widely cited performance directing artillery and the assault of the Army of the Southwest's left wing on the morning of March 8 is marred by the fact that he retreated in victory back to Missouri with half of the Federal army that very afternoon. Sigel himself was not heavily involved in the fighting on March 7, with Curtis directly ordering units from his wing into action (sending Osterhaus's division to Leetown, while a rump of Asboth's command was sent to Elkhorn Tavern later in the day). This is partially due to Curtis piecemealing his army as a response to the events, but Sigel was not sent forward to take command at either Leetown or Elkhorn Tavern, which Curtis left to the division commanders. Sigel's only act of note on March 7 was to send a small cavalry unit to Leetown.

Sigel politicked and intrigued against Curtis right from the start of the campaign and continued to do so over that the battle had been fought. This created a rift between Curtis and the native-born officers of the Army of the Southwest (Davis and Carr) from Sigel and the cohort of European-born officers (German Osterhaus and Hungarian Asboth). It was enough that Curtis that divided his army into two wings, with himself leading Carr and Davis while Sigel commanded Osterhaus and Asboth. Sigel was resentful of being placed in a subordinate position, and the assignment to effective command of half of the army may have been to mollify him. After the battle, there was a concerted effort in the newspapers to slander Curtis and to promote Sigel. There was a coordinated campaign by Sigel's officers to downplay Curtis's role as the army commander while amplifying and overexaggerating what Sigel had done.


1. William L. Shea & Earl J. Hess, Pea Ridge: Civil War Campaigns in the West (Chapel Hill, UNC Press, 1992), 278.
 
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Yankeedave

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#51
He did such a poor job of it he might as well have not bothered at all - only a couple of regiments were actually refused or turned; Rodes' Division was all on line and immediately overlapped Devins' flank which quickly collapsed and fled.
Since Howard can't move, whatever he does he is out flanked by 3/4's a mile to either side.
 



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