Franz Sigel, Failed General and the “Pea Ridge March”

My new book, Civil War Rogues, Rascals, and Rapscallions, is the second in my series, “Civil War Personalities, 50 At a Time.”  Here is another sample from the book, which is available, along with all my other books, at

“Nobody ever wanted Sigel to have military commands, but he kept getting them because of his support from the tens of thousands of German immigrants who fought for the Union.  In April 1864 Grant half-jokingly signaled his view of Sigel’s competence by noting in an official order that “if Sigel can’t skin himself [in defeating the Confederates in the Shenandoah Valley], he can hold a leg while some one else skins.”  Five weeks later, after Sigel’s disastrous defeat at the Battle of New Market, Chief of Staff Halleck wrote to Grant, “Sigel is in full retreat on Strasburg.  He will do nothing but run; never did anything else.”

Named a Brigadier General of Volunteers, his first major combat action at the Battle of Wilson’s Creek resulted in his retreat.  In March 1862 he led his troops to their one victory, at Pea Ridge, Arkansas.  But Sigel was part of the Mountain Department which was routed by Stonewall Jackson in the 1862 Shenandoah campaign.  Sigel’s last “active” command was to hold the Shenandoah Valley in 1864.  After that disaster he received no additional orders of consequence.

Today there are statues of Sigel in New York City and St. Louis despite his dismal military record.

Below is an image of the book and of another honor Sigel received, the composing of “The Pea Ridge March,” reflecting Sigel’s “triumph” at Pea Ridge.


Author: geneofva

Author of "Citizen-General: Jacob Dolson Cox and the Civil War Era," and of seven more Civil War books -- with more to come!!

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