Union route ended in sty for general

Defeat: The Union 11th Corps was overwhelmed during the first day of fighting at Gettysburg, and one of its generals, Alexander Schimmelfennig, was compelled to hide in a pig sty to avoid capture.

June 26, 2005|By Tiffany Vallo | Tiffany Vallo,SUN STAFF

It was about midday on July 1, 1863, that Brig. Gen. Alexander Schimmelfennig's 1st Brigade of the 11th Corps' 3rd Division arrived at Gettysburg, Pa.

Shortly after his brigade's arrival, however, there was a flank attack and stampede of the 11th Corps through Gettysburg, the men seeking refuge on Cemetery Hill.

Injured by a shell concussion and probably very confused, Schimmelfennig sought shelter from pursuing Confederates in a pigsty behind a house on Baltimore Street, according to John Heiser, a ranger and historian at Gettysburg National Military Park.

Schimmelfennig was unable to leave the shed for nearly two days. It was not until July 4 that enough Confederate sharpshooters left so that the Schimmelfennig could make his escape.

"Once the Gettysburg campaign ended, Schimmelfennig asked for a transfer to another command and out of the 11th Corps," said Heiser. "His request was finally granted for transfer to a command in South Carolina and he received his brigadier general's star on Nov. 29, 1863."

However, the general became stricken with a severe case of malaria that prohibited him from entering his new assignment with Union forces near Charleston for almost a year.

In early 1865, Schimmelfennig was well enough to join the command and was present during the surrender of the city on Feb. 18, 1865. Placed in command of the city for a brief period, Schimmelfennig did an admirable job until mid-March when he again became ill, this time with tuberculosis. His request for leave was granted on April 8, 1865.

Born in Lithauen, Prussia, on July 20, 1824, he was schooled in military education and entered the army at an early age with battle experience gained from the Schleswig-Holstein war and a revolution in Baden, Germany, which was put down by the intervention of the Prussian army.

"Schimmelfennig was a Prussian-born immigrant who had served in that state's army for several years as an engineer officer," said Heiser.

According to Spartacus Educational - a British Web site for American history - Schimmelfennig immigrated to America and on the outbreak of the American Civil War he joined the Union army.

Commissioned as a colonel, he fought under John Pope and Franz Sigel at the second battle of Bull Run (August 1862). Promoted to brigadier general he took part in the battles at Chancellorsville (May 1863) and Gettysburg (July 1863), where he was wounded and cut off from his regiment for three days.

"Lincoln apparently selected him from a list of prospective promotions because of his obviously German name - Lincoln wanted to appeal to German voters," said Mathew Gallman, an American history professor at the University of Florida.

After Schimmelfennig was granted his request for leave he briefly went home to Philadelphia before going to a water cure center in Wernersville, Pa., owned by Dr. Aaron Smith: "Dr. Aaron Smith's Living Springs Water Cure Establishment."

Schimmelfennig's health rapidly faded and he died unexpectedly on Sept. 5, 1865. He is buried in the Charles Evans Cemetery in Reading, Pa., Section L, Lot 61, according to Heiser.

Tiffany Vallo is a senior majoring in journalism at Loyola College in Baltimore. This article was written as part of an academic internship at The Sun.

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