Franz Sigel was born in November 18, 1824 in Sinsheim, Baden, Germany. He graduated from Military Academy in 1843 and became a leader of the Baden revolution with the rank of Colonel in the 1848 war.
He emigrated to the United States in 1852, residing in New York City where he taught school. In 1857 he moved to St. Louis and was director of the St. Louis public schools by 1860.
Shortly after the start of the Civil War, on May 4, 1861, he was commissioned colonel of the 3rd Missouri Infantry. He attracted many Germans to the Union and to antislavery causes. Organizing and recruiting an expedition to southwest Missouri, he fought in the Battle of Carthage and took part in the skirmish at Dug Springs.
At the Battle of Wilson's Creek that took place about 10 miles south west of Springfield, Missouri, Sigel divised a plan to divide the troops with Brig. Gen. Nathaniel Lyon leading a frontal attack and Sigel and his troops attacking from the rear. A problem arose when Sigel was reluctant to fire on the south's Third Louisiana Infantry led by Gen. Benjamin McCulloch due to the color of their grey uniforms, a color that was also used by some of the northern troops at the start of the war. Sigel and his men were overrun, defeated, and retreated in confusion. Gen. Lyon was killed on "Bloody Hill" on the same day, Sigel conducted a disorganized retreat of the all northern forces from the area, the Confederates, however, did not advance or overtake the retreating Union army.
Sigel's finest performance was at the Battle Pea Ridge where he commanded two divisions and "personally directed the Union artillery in the defeat of Maj. Gen Earl Van Dorn on the 2nd day of the battle."He was promoted to major general on March 21, 1862.
Over the winter of 1862 - 63 he commanded the XI Corps, consisting primarily of German immigrant forces, but by this time, Sigel had acquired a reputation as an inept general, and the XI Corps saw no action but stayed in reserve during the Battle of Fredericksburg. In February, 1863, Sigel asked to be relieved and left the corps. 
He saw light duty in eastern Pennsylvania then in 1864 President Lincoln directed Secretary of War Edwin Stanton to place Sigel in command of the new Department of West Virginia. From this command he launched an invasion of the Shenandoah Valley, and was soundly defeated at the Battle of New Market on May 15, 1864.
He fought Lieut. Gen Jubal A. Early at Harper's Ferry but was soon afterwards replaced by Albion P. Howe and spent the rest of the war without an active command; resigning his commission on May 4, 1865.
Returning to New York City following the war, he was a newspaper editor; filled a variety of political positions and was a collector of internal revenue. In October 1887 President Grover Cleveland appointed him pension agent for the city of New York.
There are statues of Franz Sigel in Riverside Park, Manhatten and at Forest Park in St. Louis, Missouri. Several streets and towns are named after him, one naming in particular is of interest to the writer of this biography; Sigel Township in Brown County, Minnesota. Franz Sigel himself visited the town of New Ulm in Sigel Township in about 1873.
Franz Sigel died in New York in 1902 and was buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx at New York City.
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