Carl Schurz was born to Christian Schurz, on March 2, 1829, in a castle
near Cologne, Germany. Christian was a German infantry soldier who later
became a corporal in the artillery. But he never saw action. He married
Marianna Jussen in 1827 and moved into the castle that once belonged to
her parents. Christain became a school master in Liblar at the time of
At the age of 19, Carl became a student at the University of Bonn. He began public speaking in rallies and gatherings. Impressed by his speaking proficiency, the professors asked Carl if he would try out for the German Parliament. Instead, he got caught up in the revolution that took place in March of 1848. He was imprisoned and later escaped.
In November of 1850, Carl emigrated to England. He married Margaretha Meyer in November of 1852. Later that year, they both emigrated to the United States. Carl did not know much English then, it took him three years to learn the language as well as master the study of law.
During that time, Carl found many friends and family in Wisconsin, as well as Illinois and Missouri, who had also emigrated from Germany. He visited them often. In 1855, Carl was admitted to the bar in Jefferson, Wisconsin, and began his political life. He wanted to help the people he knew from Germany, as well as speak out against slavery.
Carl's climb in politics was so rapid that in 1857, he became a candidate for the office of Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin. But he came within two hundred votes of an election. In 1860, the Republican party made him a member of the Board of Regents of the Wisconsin State University. Carl, as well as most of Wisconsin Republicans, chose William Henry Stewart for the Republican ticket in the 1860 presidential election. When Stewart lost to Abraham Lincoln, Carl joined with Lincoln and became an active speaker and a campaign organizer.
After his election, Abe Lincoln, appointed Carl as Minister to Spain. But with the attack on Fort Sumter, Carl insisted to stay in America and offered his services here, Lincoln urged Carl that "the war will not last long," Carl decided to go. Before he went, Carl discussed the formation of a U. S. Calvary Lincoln. He knew many of his friends from Germany who were calvary men. Lincoln agreed and Carl began to recruit before he left for Spain
On the way, he stopped off in London and Paris to urge them to try and keep Europe out of the conflict. Carl finally ended up in Madrid to begin his work there. All went well until the reports came in about the Union defeat at Bull Run. With jokes about the Union disasters spread through Spain, as well as the uproar on the Union blockade of the English ship 'Trent', Carl's desire to return to the U. S. was so great that he asked for a leave of absence to return home. Lincoln agreed.
After the horrible trip though a hurricane, the ice laden ship landed in New York on January, 24, 1862, Carl made his way straight to the President to offer his services in the Union campain. Lincoln agreed, discharged his duty in Spain and made him Brigadier General on March 6, 1862.
Schurz reported to General Fremont for duty in Mississippi. Fremont was later replaced by Franz Sigel on June 26, 1862. Schurz was promoted to Major General. His first battle was light, against J. E. B. Stuart at Cedar Mountain on July 11, 1862. Six weeks later, Sigel became the commander of the Eleventh Corps.
Early that winter, Hooker, now in charge of the Army of the Potomac, replaced Sigel with O. O. Howard. The German Immigrant solders of the Wisconsin 26th as well as the rest of the German Corps did not welcome Howard. They were loyal to their old countryman, Major General Franz Sigel. At first Sigel urged Schurz to be the commander of the Eleventh Corps, but Schurz felt that Howard would make a better chose since Howard was regular army. Major General Carl Schurz settled for command of the Third Division in the Eleventh. Under him was his colegue, General Schimmelfennig in charge of the First Brigade, and in charge of the Second Brigade was Colonel Krzyzanowski. The Corps, as well as the rest of the army, settled down for the winter.
Carl Schurz's first battle with the Eleventh Corps was at Chancellorsville in May of 1863. Hooker had planned to surround Robert E. Lee at Fredricksburg by advancing his forces at Lee's rear near Chancellorsville. He placed the Eleventh Corps as a hanging right flank. Robert E. Lee and "Stonewall" Jackson saw their oppertunity to advance around through the woods and attack this weak right flank. Many Union officers, including Schurz, warned Howard of the pending attack on the Eleventh Corps, but Howard would not listen. Schurz took it upon himself and ordered the the 58th New York and the 26th Wisconsin to turn and face the west if an attack should come that way. Schruz reported to Howard what he had done. Howard agreed. Jackson attacked that afternoon. Schimmelfenning's brigade was the first hit. Some soldiers fought, but most ran because they didn't have a chance to stand against the rushing enemy. Schurz ordered Krzyzanowski to piviot the rest of his troups to face west behind the New York and Wisconsin regiments. Schurz recalled that the two regiments in front "maintained the hopeless contest for a considerable time with splendid gallantry and did not fall back until ordered to do so." The force of the enemy was so great that all had to retreat. If not for the comming of evening, the Union force would have suffered much more.
After the Union Army retreated back across the Rapahonnic, negative reports from newspapers started to come in. The men of the Eleventh Corps were very bitter about the false storys that make them cowards. Schurz began the battle to correct this injustus. He wrote an official "sober and scrupulously truthful recital" on May 12, 1863, on what really happened at Chancellorsville. Howard approved it, but Hooker did not aprove of publicaitons of one isolated report. Schurz appealed to Mr. Stanton, then Secretrary of War. He also turned it down. It would take years of Schurz's time and efforts to correct the lies. But in the mean time, the war continued.
On June 30, 1863, the Eleventh Corps marched through Maryland on their way to Pennsylvania. They arrived in Gettysburg on the morning of July, 1, where Schurz found General Howard on Cemetery Hill. The day was very hot and the corps arrived at double speed. They were, "steaming with perspiration and panting for breath." But they were ordered to hurry through Gettysburg and stop north of town, just right of the First Corps. Schurz received orders to stay there and get ready for battle. The Confederate advance was so great that the Eleventh Corps had to withdraw through town to Cemetery Hill. Schurz lost his First Brigade commander, General Schimmelfennig.
The next day, the Eleventh saw little action. On July 3, 1863, Schurz watched Pickett's charge from Cemetery Hill. There were some Confederates who tried to cross the pickets, but that was the most the Eleventh saw of that battle. After the retreat of Lee's army, Schurz ordered the 26th Wisconsin east to look for and capture any Confederate stragglers. Schurz himself went through town to see what had become of it. But to his surprise, he found General Schimmelfennig standing at the door of a building calling for him. General Schimmelfennig had been trapped in town and hid until the withdraw of Lee's Army. When his army went south and crossed the Potomac, the battle of Gettysburg was over.
On September 25, 1863, the Eleventh Corps was cut loose form the Army of the Potomac and joined with the Twelfth Corps to form the Twentieth Corps, Army of the Cumberland. On October the Twentieth Corps marched to Chattanooga. Schurz sent Krzyzanowski's brigade to Wauhatchie, Tennessee, then to Mission Ridge on November 22, 1863. They later rejoined the Army of the Cumberland. The next battle was at Lookout Mountain, also known as "The Battle Above the Clouds". For the rest of the Autumn, the Corps marched in the vacinity fighting off skirmmishers. On December 5, 1863, they ended back at Lookout Mountain to stay for winter quarters.
In the Spring of 1864, Major General Carl Schurz took temperary leave of his command to participate in the reelection of Presedent Abraham Lincoln. Then after the election in November of that year, Schurz reported to the War Department for duty. He was ordered to visit governors of states to help form the Veteran's Corps. This Corps would consist of soldiers who belonged to recently desolved regiments. They were soldiers who fought for three years and wanted to continue the fight.
After Sherman marched to the sea and up to North Carolinia, Schurz was ordered to report for duty with General Sherman at Goldsborough. He was sent to General Slocum who appointed him as temporary Chief of Staff. The 26th Wisconsin was then attached to the Army of the Tennessee under O. O. Howard. In the spring of 1865, after the surrender of Lee and Johnston, Schurz immediatly resigned his commission and returned to political life.
President Johnson recognized his political work with Lincoln and appointed Schurz to Special Commissioner to report on the conditions of the seaboard and gulf states. During that time he did correspondence for the New York Tribune. In 1867, Schurz resigned his post and became editor and part owner of the Westliche Post in St. Louis, Missouri. Two years later, he was elected as United States Senator of Missouri. Carl Schurz helped start the Liberal Republican Party in 1872. He returned to the Republican Party in 1876 to support President Hayes' campain. Schurz was appointed by Hayes as Secretary of the Interior. The end of President Hayes' term was also the end of Schurz's official life.
Carl Schurz returned to journalism, but he did not give up his work and desire for public service. He was still a powerful influence in the realm of politics, in his writing and his speeches. He gained and kept the respect of all who knew him.
Carl Schurz died on May 14, 1906. In honor of his work and recognition, the city of New York built a park, complete with his statue, that bares his name. The Carl Schurz park is in Manhattan across the street from the Mayor's residence. A fitting memorial for a man who has done so much for this country.
(Photo courtesy of "Blue and Gray" Nov 1987)
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