First Lieutenant Carl Doerflinger


        Charles H. Doerflinger was born at Ettenheim, Baden, Germany, Feb. 17, 1843, the son of Karl Doerflinger and Theresia (Maier) Gisselbrecht, the former a native of Freiburg and the latter of Ettenheim. On the father's side he traces back to the sturdy yeomanry of the Black Forest. His father received a university training, and was imprisoned in 1848 for participation in the revolutionary movement of that year. He was liberated by his brave wife who got past the guards, bringing him means of escape hidden in loaves of bread which she had baked. He had been a noted athlete when at the university and he succeeded in scaling the prison walls, and, under cover of night, crossed the Rhine, though the bullets from mounted gensdarmes struck the water near his boat. This heroic adventure is full of romance and deserves to be embalmed in a deathless story. From the father, Charles H. Doerflinger inherited his stature, five feet ten, and his energy. On the mother's side, he traces his lineage to the De La Chapelles of Alsace-Lorraine, and the Guilleberts of Normandie, France. To this fusion of German and French blood is traceable his lofty idealism, his devotion to freedom and progress. In 1851 he was fortunate in coming under the influence of that great character and educator, the pioneer of rational educational methods in Wisconsin, 'Prof. Peter Engelmann, an alumnus of the University of Berlin and founder of the German-English Academy of Milwaukee; it was from this man that Doerflinger imbibed his scholastic bias, his deep interest in nature, in scientific reading, and in the promotion of popular scientific endeavors. When "Father Abraham" had issued his call for 300,000 men in the spring of 1862, our subject enlisted with many schoolmates in the Twenty-sixth Wisconsin infantry. He was made orderly sergeant, then second lieutenant and first lieutenant. His father enlisted as private in the Second Wisconsin cavalry and returned as first lieutenant. The son took part in the famous battle of Chancellorsville, 2, 1863, in Gen. Carl Schurz's division. He was in command of the center of the company of 100 sharpshooters deployed as a skirmish line to cover the brigade. The captain was there shot and instantly killed. The skirmish line had been ordered to fall back upon the regiment, when Doerflinger found that the captain of his own company had also been shot and carried off the field. He immediately took command of the company, and with word and sword inspired his men again and again in a rain of bullets, till his left ankle was shattered by a minie-ball. His leg was poorly amputated above the knee. His colonel, William H. Jacobs, an eye witness, in a dispatch to the Milwaukee Herold, describing the battle scene, said: "The palm of the day belongs to the young hero, Doerflinger." Our subject protests that the whole regiment deserved this high encomium. While crippled for life, Lieutenant Doerflinger has been anything but an idler, though he suffered more or less severe pain for forty-five years. After the first amputation, which was a failure, in 1863, he had to submit to five unsuccessful supplementary operations in five consecutive days and quite recently, on April 8, 1908, the attacks of pain having become unbearable, two inches more of the thigh were amputated, great relief resulting from the operation. He was a teacher in the German-English Academy for several years after his return from the war, and a substitute teacher and private teacher during many years before and after that period. Returning from a trip to Europe he engaged in the book selling and publishing business. From 1874 to 1881 he was one of the publishers of the "Erziehungs Blaetter," and of the "New Education," with which was subsequently merged "The Kindergarten Messenger" of Miss Elizabeth Peabody, who said the Education" among all publications came nearest to representing her own ideals. He also published a juvenile monthly called "Onkel Karl"; and, in connection with the said educational papers, a number of books, pamphlets and tracts devoted to progressive educational ideals. In 1872, as secretary of the Wisconsin Natural History Society, he began to urge the establishment of a public museum. This agitation resulted in the present splendid building containing the Public Museum and the Public Library. Doerflinger was called in from his farm in Racine county to take charge of the museum as its first custodian in 1883. His health failing again in 1886, he resigned. Given a long vacation, he finally had to insist upon being relieved (1887). Again he tried farming for health until 1889, when he went abroad and gradually recovered his health while pursuing amateur studies and explorations in the regions of Switzerland and France that had been inhabited from 4,000 to 90,000 years before by the pile-dwellers and cave-dwellers. He collected more than one thousand prehistoric relics, now in the Public Museum. In 1894 he traveled extensively in Mexico for the purpose of studying the cultivation of coffee, cocoa, rubber and other products and gave much attention to educational institutions. For a man of Lieutenant Doerflinger's age and affliction to travel on muleback across the Sierras, 10,000 feet above the sea level was a gigantic undertaking and no one but a man of indomitable per could have accomplished the task. He made an excursion to the ancient royal residence at Mitla and collected some interest specimens, now preserved in the Public Museum. Since 1895 he has been connected with the Doerflinger Artificial Limb Co. In 1896 he was asked to accept the office of chief examiner and secretary of the city Civil Service Commission, which he held for four years and resigned in 1900, on account of a recurrence of his troubles, caused mainly by the imperfect amputation and constantly painful condition of his maimed leg, and overwork. Lieut. Doerflinger's favorite sphere of activity, and the one by which he prefers that posterity shall Judge him, since to it he himself attaches the greatest importance. is in the realm of education. He has always maintained that the educator by molding the soul as well as mind and body of the child, holds the destiny of the nation in his hands. As an experienced teacher, under whose tutelage a great number of children have passed, he possesses a practical knowledge of the defects of the public school system which he proposes should be remedied by a model school, supported by private endowment to keep it free from political influences, and which shall demonstrate, in a twelve years, course by the consistent application of the said rational principles and methods, that children can be given, approximately, as much knowledge at the age of sixteen as the present high school gives them at the age of sixteen to eighteen and a higher degree of powers fitting them for good citizenship and real self-government. In 1868 Doerflinger discovered the Wisconsin meteorite, classified by Prof. Shephard among the rare and beautiful species "tainiastic" or "ribband" siderite and forming the only variety of that species characterized what Prof. Lawrence Smith named "Laphamite Markings." After the Peshtigo-Oconto calamity, in 1871, he advocated forest protection the reforesting of denuded and barren lands, and systematic forest culture. For this advocacy he was still ridiculed as late 1880 by some of the great timber and lumber kings. Fortunately for our country, the enlightened policy of our federal government has been for many years past, successfully following lines laid down by him and other members of the Natural History Society nearly forty years ago. While in Europe he also entered the realm of economic, political and social problems, by a practical personal investigation of the great successful profit-sharing industries in northern, central and southern France, especially at Guise, Paris and Argouleme. Returned home, he embodied his observations in lectures and articles, and, while advanced thinkers praised his efforts, their conservative policy considered them premature, simply because he was too far in advance of the plodding human procession. In 1870 he was one of the twelve founders of the First Kindergarten Society of Milwaukee, which established and caused the establishment of the first four private model kindergartens as the foundation for primary and elementary school work. From 1874 on he was one of the most energetic agitators for the official introduction of the kindergarten into the public school system, which was resolved upon by the school board in 1880, making Milwaukee the first city in the United States to incorporate the system in the primary departments of all its district schools. In 1877, as a Regent of State Normal Schools, he first offered resolutions in favor of the introduction of kindergartening and the training of kindergartners in all the normal schools, and succeeded, after strenuous efforts, continued for three years against the intrigues of one of the wiliest educational machines. In 1874 he edited the course of physical exercises which was introduced in the city's schools. In 1870, while in Europe, being an honorary member of the Turnverein in Milwaukee, Doerflinger was invited to take an active part in the athletic festival held at Baden-Baden by the Gymnastic Union of the Upper Rhine. Doffing his artificial limb, he took part in all the contests (running only excepted), even jumping, and he carried off the eleventh prize, an oak wreath. In 1897-99 he was one of the most active members of the "Milwaukee Manual Training Association," and prepared nearly all the written and printed papers. The work of this society culminated some years later in the introduction of manual training into the grades of all the Milwaukee district schools. Our subject has belonged to, or does belong to, thirty-five local, state and national welfare institutions and associations, and has been or is active in them. On Oct. 5, 1873, he married Miss Augusta, daughter of August and Marie Huecker Barkhausen, of Thiensville, Wis., and the issue of their union was as follows: Thea, now Mrs. Edward H. Carter; Duty of governess; and Arno, secretary and manager of the Doerflinger Artificial Limb Co. In religion Mr. Doerflinger is liberal and in politics he is a Republican. Mrs. Augusta Doerflinger, wife of our subject who has been his helpmate, a model housewife and mother, has been an active member of the Ladies' Society of the German-English Academy for thirty years, and of the Kindergarten Society until its members merged with the Ladies' Society.

Memoirs of Milwaukee County Vol2, 1909 pg. 49-52 (ARC) F 587 .M6 W33 v.2 Milwaukee Archive UWM

Photo from the Milwaukee Historical Society

--- More from Charles Doerflinger ---

Concerning the Five Days, Battle of Chancellorsville
Personal Reminiscences of the Battle of Chancellorsville
Hand Written Map of the Battle of Chancellorsville
The Ancestry of Charles H. Doerflinger [Paper]
Pension Increase Request of Charles H. Doerflinger
Medical Problems of Charles H. Doerflinger