The Other Sigel: Civil War Colonel Albert Sigel

During the mid-nineteenth century the world was in an uproar. Many countries in Europe were struggling with revolutions. In Prussia, the idea of combining the German states into a unified, single Germany, was part of the revolutionist’s plans. But because of the failed reforms, many of these revolutionaries – most of who were highly educated, politically astute and militarily trained – fled to the United States in a search for a new life. Called “Fourty-Eighters” because of their involvements in the revolutions of 1848, many of these Europeans arrived in America and became not only prominent citizens, but also contributed to and invested in their new homeland.

German immigrants also enlisted, some voluntarily and other not so voluntarily, in the United States Army. With the threat of secession of the southern states and what looked like a civil war brewing, many of these Germans sided with their new found country in the effort to maintain the Union, and some, to fight against the southern support of slavery. With a rise in German immigrants, there were German officers appointed to spur these immigrants towards enlistment. This is a brief look at one such German that, by circumstances or fate, fell into obscurity behind his famous General brother and has been lost to the passage of time.

Colonel Albert SigelColonel Albert Sigel was born in Sinsheim, Rhein-Neckar-Kreis, Baden-Württemberg, Germany on November 13, 1827. He was the third child Franz Moritz Sigel (1788 – 1864) and Anna Marie Pauline Lichtenauer, both of Germany, along with his brother, the famed Civil War General Franz Peter Sigel (1824 – 1902), and his other siblings Laura, Theresa, Emil and Karl Sigel. Colonel Sigel immigrated to the United States in 1851 along with many other Europeans, including his brother Franz, who were called “Forty-Eighters” in reference to their participations in the failed European revolutions of 1848. He was naturalized in New York, NY on October 24, 1860.

Colonel Sigel married Rosa Fischer (1844 – 1939) of St Louis, Missouri on March 26, 1863 in St. Louis, Missouri. The Sigel’s had six children, Amalia (1864 – 1953), Moritz (1866 – 1933), Anna (1867 – 1951), Lena (1870 – 1967), Emma (1872 – 1966), and Albert (1878 – 1880).[1] Of the six Sigel children, only Amalia ever married (to Robert G. Bremerman) and they had no sons. The other Sigel children had no children of their own and lived with their mother until her death. Earel Albert Sigel died of meningitis at the age of 1 year, 10months and 6 days, thus ending any direct male lineage from Albert Sigel. Col. Sigel’s wife Rosa, along with Amailia, Moritz, Anna, and Lena were all cremated at the Missouri Crematorium in St. Louis.[2]

Sigel enlisted in the U.S. Army on May 28, 1861 in New Jersey and commissioned a captain of Company D, New Jersey 2nd Infantry Regiment. He mustered out of this regiment on December 14, 1861. Sigel was given the rank of Colonel on May 19, 1862 and commanded the Booneville State Militia Cavalry Battalion (“Epsteins”) which was organized at Booneville, MO. March 24, 1862. This militia unit saw a few skirmishes in central Missouri until it was re-organized as the 13th Regiment Missouri State Militia Cavalry.

On October 18, 1861, while commanding the 13th MSM Cavalry, Col. Sigel was involved in an investigation of the killing of rebel prisoners in Waynesville.

The 13th MSM Cavalry was involved in an engagement at the California House in which Col. Sigel gave the following report;

OCTOBER 18, 1862. – Skirmish at California House, Mo. Report of Colonel Albert Sigel, Thirteenth Missouri Cavalry (Militia). HDQRS. 13TH Regiment CAV., MO. S. M., Waynesville, Mo., Oct. 18, 1862.

COLONEL: In compliance with your dispatch, received last evening that 200 rebels had crossed the Missouri at Portland the night before and tried to make their way south, I thought it best to let them come near our post, so as to be able to intercept them whenever they tried to cross our line. I therefore ordered Captain Murphy, after midnight, with portions of four companies, numbering 75 men, toward the Gasconade, while I had another force of about 100 men ready to throw on them whenever I could get information where they intended to cross.

At about 10 o’clock this morning I received a report that Captain Murphy had not only found their trace, but was in hot pursuit of them. It was also reported that they had turned southwest, and it was now certain to me that they would cross our line 7 miles west from here, near the California House. I immediately started there with the force already mentioned, and we were scarcely ten minutes near the California House when they drove in our advance guard, under Lieutenant Muller, of Company A, who fell back and brought them into the line of Lieutenant Brown, of Company F, whose men were dismounted. We now pitched into them from all sides, and in a few minutes they ran for their lives. Captain Murphy was also nearly up at that time, and drove a portion of them before hi, scattering them in all directions.

The estimate of the rebels killed is 20, among them Lieutenant Tipton, and as many are wounded. We captured a secesh [sic] flag, 2 roll-books, some horses, and some shot-guns and Austrian rifles; made 3 prisoners, and liberated 2 Union men, who they had prisoners. We had only 1 man slightly wounded. I ordered the secesh [sic] population of the neighborhood to bury the dead and to care for the wounded rebels.

The rebels were well armed and equipped and 250 to 300 strong. They were commanded by Captain Ely, Captain Brooks, and two captains both with the name of Creggs, and were a part of Colonel Porter’s command, who did not cross the Missouri with them, but promised to follow them with a large force.

All our officers and men behaved well. Captain Smith (Company H) has not yet, at 8.30 p. m., come back from pursuit the rebels.

I remain, colonel, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

ALBERT SIGEL, Colonel, Commanding Thirteenth Regiment Cavalry, Mo. S. M. [3]

He again assumed command as Colonel of the 5th Regiment Missouri State Militia Cavalry when it was reorganized from the 13th Missouri State Militia Cavalry on February 8, 1863.[4] The 5th MSM Cavalry was attached to the District of Rolla, Department of Missouri up until June 1863 where it was then assigned to the District of the Border, Department of Missouri up until October 1863 then reassigned back to the District of Rolla until the regiment mustered out on July 8, 1865.

The 5th MSM Cavalry saw most of its action in and around the area of Waynesville, MO. where the headquarters was located atop a bluff overlooking the town as well as the Wire Road, a main supply route from St. Louis to Springfield, MO. Most of this action involved skirmishes and scouting missions against Missouri bushwhackers who were southern sympathizing, irregular forces.

On March 25, 1864, Brigadier General Odon Guitar, commander of the District of Rolla and Col. Sigel’s commanding officer, was relieved of command and Col. Sigel, in accordance with General Order #25, was directed to assume command of the District of Rolla, in which Col. Sigel responded that he would indeed fulfill this role. In November 1864 he continued this role as commander of the Rolla District and after the evacuation of Fort Davidson in Pilot Knob, MO, awaited the arrival of Brigadier General Thomas Ewing.[5] In a report given by Brigadier General John McNeil, Col. Sigel received praise for setting up a secure defense in anticipation for the continuing threat of Confederate General John S. Marmaduke and General J.O. Shelby General McNeil stated that, “By the 3rd of October, so assiduously and faithfully had the working parties performed the tasks allotted, for which too much praise cannot be given to Colonel Albert Sigel, Fifth Missouri State Militia Infantry, commanding the post.”[6]

After the Civil War, Col. Sigel served as Adjutant-General of Missouri and as a notary public.

Colonel Sigel died on March 16, 1884 at the age of 56. The St. Louis Republican newspaper printed the following obituary of his passing:

BURIAL OF COL. ALBERT SIGEL. From the St. Louis Republican, March 18.

Col. Albert Sigel, Adjutant-General of Missouri under Gov. Brown, was buried yesterday. There were few persons in attendance and no services at the house or grave. Col. Sigel was the brother of Gen. Franz Sigel, and was a native of the Grand Duchy of Baden, having been born at Sinshein, Baden, Nov. 13, 1827. He had a military education and saw some service before coming to this country. Col. Sigel during the war was in command of the Fifth Regiment Cavalry, Missouri State Militia (formerly the Thirteenth.) He was appointed Colonel of the regiment May, 19, 1862, and was mustered out with the regiment at the expiration of its term, Jan. 7, 1865. The regiment aggregated 1,100 men, was well mounted, and the condition of the horses was as good as that of the horses of any mounted regiment in the Missouri Department.[7]

Map of South St. Louis in 1885 with overlay of modern featuresAt the time of his death, Col. Sigel lived at 1853 or 1929 Linn Avenue in South St. Louis, which today would be located at the I-44/I-55 interchange, southeast of Lafayette Park. Many of the streets no longer exist (including this section of Linn Ave.) and quite a few others now have different names.

The St. Louis Death Registry shows that Col. Sigel is buried at “New Picker’s Cemetery” which was seized by the City of St. Louis and renamed Gatewood Gardens Cemetery. Unfortunately, the records from 1861 to 1891 are missing and all that is left is a handwritten transcription of the log, with Col. Sigel not found. So he is most likely buried in an unmarked grave at the cemetery, lost to time.

Colonel Sigel has been mostly forgotten in the shadow of his brother Franz, by children that left him no heirs, and the march of time. However, history shows him as a dedicated soldier and commander for the United States, a public servant to the state of Missouri

 

Works Cited

National Park Service. The Civil War Soldiers and Sailor’s Database: Battle Units. n.d. http://www.nps.gov/civilwar/search-battle-units-detail.htm?battleUnitCode=UMO0005RCY2 (accessed January 6, 2015).

New York Times. “Burial of Col. Albert Sigel.” New York Times Obituary, March 21, 1884.

The Union Army: A History of Military Affairs in the Loyal States 1861-65 Records of the Regiments in the Union Army-Cyclopedia of Battles-Memoirs of Commanders and Soldiers. Vols. V Cyclopedia of Battles A – Helena. Madison, WI: Federal Publishing Company, 1908.

United States War Department. The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1901.

Wood, William D. Report of the Adjutant General. St. Louis: Headquarters State of Missouri Adjutant Generals Office, 1863.

 

[1] Year: 1880; Census Place: St. Louis, St. Louis (Independent City), Missouri; Roll: 721; Family History Film: 1254721; Page: 637C; Enumeration District: 100

[2] Missouri Secretary of State, “Missouri Digital Heritage” Missouri Death Certificates, 1910-1963. http://www.sos.mo.gov/records/archives/archivesdb/deathcertificates/Default.aspx

[3] United States War Department. The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1901. Serial 019, Page 0321, Chapter XXV.

[4] Wood, William D. Report of the Adjutant General. St. Louis: Headquarters State of Missouri Adjutant Generals Office, 1863, p. 483.

[5] Ibid., Serial 086, Page 0707, Chapter LIII.

[6] Ibid., Serial 083, Page 0375, Chapter LIII.

[7] New York Times. “Burial of Col. Albert Sigel.” New York Times Obituary, March 21, 1884.

1 comment

  1. I dont believe this skirmish took place in California mo. In Pulaski county where waynesville is located we had a stage coach stop named the California house. This was located in colley holler. There was a skirmish there between rebs and the union (unfortunately this place burned down in the 1980s I believe). Also it mentions the gasconade river which is not located anywhere near California mo. It only flows thur 5 mo counties for a total distance of 330 miles. You may want to recheck your facts on this and rewrite this article

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