Chapters in the History of the Turners


        Sprung from seed sown by German liberals, the Amer­ican turners could not be anything but freedom-loving and patriotic. From the beginning they stood for the rights and the liberty of man; they wanted the shackles off every­where, they demanded a chainless body and a fetterless brain. Literally they fought for free speech, free thought, and free men. Their second national convention proclaimed allegiance to the platform of the Free Soil party and pledged every member to its support. In 1855, under the presidency of Carl F. Bauer, subsequently the editor of the Milwaukee Herold, they declared their determined op­position to both slavery and slavery extension, as unworthy of a republic and as contrary to the principles of liberty. Under Franz Sigel, the turners of St. Louis captured Camp Jackson and saved Missouri for the Union. Winston Churchill's The Crisis has given us a graphic pic­ture of this episode. From Milwaukee a company of young turners went to St. Louis "to fight mit Sigel," and among them were my father's and my mother's youngest brothers, and Bernhard Eiring, who still survives. In Baltimore, the only place where the stars and stripes fluttered in the breeze was on the flagstaff of the turner-hall. Lincoln's bodyguard at his inauguration consisted of sharpshooters of the Washington Turnverein and their brethren from Baltimore. On April 17, 1861, Judge Stallo [John Bernhard Stallo (1822-1900), distinguished linguist, scientist, and jurist, came to America in 1838. He was a professor of ancient languages before beginning the practice of law in 1847 at Cincinnati. In 1885 he was ap­pointed by Cleveland minister to Italy, and after Harrison's election he resigned, but lived at Florence, engaged in philosophic and scientific studies and in author­ship until his death] delivered his stirring address in the Cincinnati Turnverein, and before the meeting closed a full regiment had been enrolled-the Ninth Ohio, organized and trained by Willich, who has been heretofore referred to in connection with the founding of the Milwaukee Turnverein. Willich subsequently commanded the Thirty­-second Indiana, a sister-regiment of the Ninth Ohio. Hecker organized the Twenty-fourth and the Eighty-­second Illinois, Weber organized his turners into the Twentieth New York, Osterhaus did the same in the case of the Twelfth Missouri, Schimmelpfennig with the Seventy-­fourth Pennsylvania, and Pfaender with the Second Minnesota. Captain Blandowski, fencing master of the St. Louis turners, was one of the first to fall in the capture of Camp Jackson and the arsenal. Turners participated everywhere from the beginning to the end of the war: the first victims were John Ricks and Martin Ohl, of the Washington turners, and the man who led the army into Richmond was General Weitzel, who as a youth had been active as a turner in Cincinnati. Wisconsin turners likewise did their full duty as men and patriots. They were particularly conspicuous in the Fifth, the Ninth, and the Twenty-sixth regiments. Huchting and Helm of Madison joined the First Wisconsin Infantry, two of the Sauthoffs joined the First Wisconsin Artillery [When the first company of "ninety-day men" entrained at Madison for the war, they were escorted to the station by the Madison Turnverein]. The Milwaukee society organized Company C, the Turner Company, of the Fifth; Baumbaeb commanded the Twenty-fourth in the Battle above the Clouds; Brosius served in the Ninth; Boebel lost a leg while leading the Twenty-sixth at Gettysburg; Fink and Doerflinger, both of the Twenty-sixth, were severely wounded at Chancellorsville; Domschke, later the editor of the Herold, and Wallber, both officers in the Twenty-sixth, were prisoners in Libby; Anneke, under whom Schurz bad served in 1848, was colonel of the Thirty-fourth; Koch, the architect, was a topographical engineer on General Sheridan's staff; Maerklin, the poet, with Boebel one of the founders of the society, served in the Thirty-fourth Wisconsin. These well-known names are cited as types of turner - soldiers everywhere, and are selected at random. For a full treatment of the subject, I refer the reader to Rosengarten's The German Soldier in the Wars of the United States, and to Kaufmann's Die Deutschen im Am. Buergerkriege. One of the most beautiful and impressive lessons in patriotism for the pupils who have attended the turning-school of the Milwaukee society is the commemorative marble tablet on its wall, on which are perpetuated the names of its members who fell in the Civil War, forgotten heroes in nameless, sunken graves in Virginia, Missouri, Tennessee, Georgia, and the Carolinas.
        Only a brief and succinct mention can here be made of the political reforms for which the turners have stood and for which they fought, both as members of political organizations and as sturdy independents. A glance at their principles and platforms shows them as students of political conscience and government, of a high order. Above all, while they habitually used the German language, loved German letters and art, supported the German theater, sang German songs, and kept up German customs, they were at all times and under all circumstances Americans from crown to toe and in every fibre of their being. It was a fundamental requirement that every turner had to be a citizen, and it was a condition of admission to membership that each applicant was obliged to become naturalized as speedily as possible. Americanization was for them no problem at all. They either inherited, or acquired as quickly and as easily as breathing, the great moral and political traditions of the Republic. They vouched for their patriotism, in peace and war, in thought and deed, with all they had and all they were, with their lives, their fortunes, and their honor. They were firm believers in democratic government and in the sovereignty of the people. They were advocates of the initiative, referendum, and recall. They emphasized especially among their platform principles the following: direct popular election of president and senators; the duty of the state to improve the social and economic welfare of the people; protection of the masses against the exploitation of capital; factory inspection; prohibition of child labor, abolition of monopolies, land grants, and subsidies; progressive income and inheritance taxation; tariff and civil service reform; international arbitration. Verily upon their principles a political platform could be built even today upon which every enlightened, forward-looking citizen could take a conscientious stand. And they did all this in a spirit of absolute unselfishness. No one looked upon the mere office-seeker with greater contempt then did they. They acted from motives of the highest idealism, the purest patriotism, the finest loyalty, the deepest love of country and of state. "Cast thy bread upon the waters, for thou shalt find it after many days."

Chapters in the History of the Turners pg. 130-133 by Robert Wild