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Sperryville in Rappahannock County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
 

Sigels' Corps

A Map Covers a Lifetime

 
 
Sigels' Corps Marker image. Click for full size.
By Devry Becker Jones, April 17, 2021
1. Sigels' Corps Marker
Inscription.  
The Union Army of Virginia existed for a little less than 3 months in the summer of 1862. Gen. Franz Sigel's 1st Corps was camped on this ground for a third of that time. About half of Sigel's force formed from the division of Louis Blenker. These 8,000 German and other European troops had experienced their first fighting and severe losses at Cross Keys on June 8. Encampment at Sperryville represented a quiet interlude prior to their heavy involvement in the 2nd Manassas Campaign. Two divisions, under Generals Carl Schurz and Robert Schenck camped here. A third division, under Adolph von Steinwehr, protected the army's flank at Thornton Gap while an independent brigade under Robert Milroy was at Woodville. This map provides an intersecting overview of the history of the Corps from its inception in early July until its absorption into the 11th Corps of the Army of the Potomac in mid-September.

Gen. Louis Blenker. Blenker had organized the 8th New York Infantry, a German unit, and rose to become leader of the German Division that became the basis for Sigel's Corps. Disliked by some for his 'european' style of of leadership and

Sigels' Corps Marker image. Click for full size.
By Devry Becker Jones, April 17, 2021
2. Sigels' Corps Marker
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recruitment of some members of Europe's nobility as officers, Blenker was forced into retirement soon after Sigel took command of the 1st Corps and died soon thereafter.

Gen. Adolph von Steinwehr. His division guarded Thornton Gap while Sigel was in Sperryville.

Oak Hill, on the hill above Reynolds Memorial Baptist Church, was Sigel's headquarters during the Union encampment. The original house burned in the 1990s.

Gen. Robert Milroy. His brigade guarded Woodville while Sigel was in Sperryville.

Sigel and his staff insisted on taking tea with Carolyn Homasel Thornton (left) at Montpelier. She humored them and played Bonnie Blue Flag and Dixie on the piano. Sigel played several pieces for her in response.

Col. Gustave Cluseret (inset) conducted reconnaissance toward Madison for Sigel. He was aggressive in requisitioning crops for his troops.

Gen. John Pope gave orders to his army, including Sigel, to live off the land. This cartoon provides and extreme view of this approach.

Sigel's camp here lay near Crooked Run Baptist Church.

Gen. Franz Sigel. Sigel, born in Baden, Germany, in 1824, immigrated to the United States in 1852 and settled in St. Louis, Missouri, where he taught school. Sigel was a graduate of Karlsruhe, served in the German army until 1847, and was the minister

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of war for the unsuccessful revolution against Prussia in 1848. His fellow immigrants, who were also anti-slavery and pro-Union esteemed Sigel. Commissioned a brigadier general in August 1861, he was promoted to major general in March 1862. After service in Missouri and Arkansas, he was transferred East and fought in the Shenandoah Valley and at the Second Battle of Manassas. His field service ended in 1864 after his defeat at New Market; he resigned in May 1865. Sigel edited periodicals in Baltimore and New York, and in the latter city served as internal revenue collector and pension agent. He died there in 1902.

The scene at Centerville was similar after both the 1st and 2nd Battles of Manassas: a defeated Union Army in retreat toward Washington.

After Sigel's Corps arrived near Georgetown, it ceased to exist. Most of its units became the base of the newly formed 11th Corps of the Army of the Potomac.

Sigel burned Waterloo Bridge to prevent its use by Confederates. Lee's entire army, led by Jackson would bypass here crossing the Rappahannock about five miles upstream at Hinson's Ford en route to the 2nd Battle of Manassas.

Fairfax Courthouse witnessed many wartime events including a brief stop by Sigel during the retreat from 2nd Manassas.

Sigel passed through Warrenton en route to the 2nd Battle of Manassas.

The

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brigades of Alexander Schimmelfennig and Wladimir Krzyzanowski (insets) of Schurz's division saw heavy fighting with Stonewall Jackson's Confederates near Sudley Springs at the 2nd Battle of Manassas.

Fauquier Sulphur Springs was a fine antebellum resort. The hotel, which burned during the war, was used as a hospital.

In one of the opening encounters that would end a week later at 2nd Manassas, Capt. Ulric Dahlgren learned that Confederates had crossed to the east of the Rappahannock when they surprised his patrol on Aug. 21.

Sigel burned the bridge here on Aug. 19, then nearly trapped Jubal Early's Confederates on the east side of the Rappahannock on Aug. 23. Only the quick construction of a new bridge enabled Early to escape.Freeman's Ford where both sides mistook the others strengths.

A confusion in orders made Sigel late to the Battle of Cedar Mountain, just south of Culpeper, on August 9. They passed through the town en route to a camp a little further south.

The Germans troops loved music. Bands and patriotic songs were a part of their routine and morale. This is one of the best known of the 'German' songs of the war.

Member of 8th New York Infantry. Patriotism and pride were typical of most German immigrants, these noble qualities became more subdued after they became scapegoats for the Union debacle at Chancellorsville.

Interior of Sutler's Tent. Although Blenker tried to reduce alcohol sales to his troops, drinking was still tolerated in camps until banned completely as a 'punishment' to the German following their inability to halt Stonewall Jackson's flank attack at the Battle of Chancellorsville.

Beer Trumps Prejudice. Germans were often subject to prejudice by Anglo-Americans. Their fondness for beer sometimes overcame this barrier. Whenever it was known the Germans had beer in camp, they suddenly (re)acquired many new friends.
 
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Arts, Letters, MusicBridges & ViaductsSettlements & SettlersWar, US Civil. A significant historical month for this entry is March 1862.
 
Location. 38° 39.487′ N, 78° 13.549′ W. Marker is in Sperryville, Virginia, in Rappahannock County. Marker can be reached from the intersection of Lee Highway (U.S. 211/522) and U.S. 522, on the left when traveling west. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 12018 B Lee Hwy, Sperryville VA 22740, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. A Hint of Total War (here, next to this marker); Sperryville (a few steps from this marker); Sister Caroline (a few steps from this marker); Hopkins Ordinary (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); 48 Main Street (about 400 feet away); Medical Miracle (about 500 feet away); 33 Main Street (about 700 feet away); 31 Main Street (about 700 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Sperryville.

 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on April 19, 2021. It was originally submitted on April 19, 2021, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. This page has been viewed 37 times since then. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on April 19, 2021, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia.

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May. 13, 2021