Alexander von Schimmelfennig

Brigadier General Alexander von Schimmelfennig

Brave Teuton, though thy awful name
Is one no common rhyme can mimic,
Though in despair the trump of Fame
Evades thy painful patronymic-
Though orators forego thy praise,
And timid bards by toungue or pen ig-
Nore thee- thus alone I raise
Thy name in song, my Schimmelfennig!
...First stanza of the poem "Schimmelfennig", by Bret Harte
Published in The Californian April 1, 1865

Biographical Outline

  • Early Life
    • Born in Lithauen, Prussia, July 20, 1824
  • Pre-Civil War Military Career
    • Engineer in the Prussian Army during the Schleswig-Holstein War
    • Served in the revolution in Baden in 1848
  • Early Life in the United States
      Came to the United States in 1853
    • Lived in Philadelphia, PA
    • Published a book which predicted the Crimean War
    • Worked as an engineer and a draftsman
    • Was working in Washing for the War Department in 1860, as an engineer
  • Civil War Career
    • Offered services to the government immediately in 1861
    • Was made Colonel of the 74th Pennsylvania, which was recruited from among the Germans in Pittsburgh
    • Did not see much early duty because of an accident in which he fell from his horse, and a bout with smallpox
    • Succeeded to the command of the first brigade of Schurz's Division after the death of General Henry Bohlen, August 22, 1862
    • Commanded this brigade during the unfortunate disaster of the XI Corps at the Battle of Chancellorsville. After the battle, he helped express the indignation that the German officers felt over the way the rest of the army and the press had portrayed their participation.
    • Commanded this brigade at the Battle of Gettysburg, where the corps was similarly routed, July 1, 1863. During the battle he was briefly in command of Schurz's Division, but was "struck down by the blow of a gun." Fearing capture, he hid in a pigstye or stable as the Confederate troops overran his position. He remained in hiding for two days, until the rebel troops finally left the area and it was reoccupied by friendly forces. In spite of his generally good reputation as a brave officer, this unfortunate incident would the one that was most often remembered by others.
    • After Gettysburg, he no longer wished to serve with the XI Corps, and sought transfer to South Carolina. An attack of malaria kept him from serving for a while.
    • Commanded the troops who captured Charleston, SC, bloodlessly, was present at the capitulation of the city on February 18, 1865. By an interesting coincidence, the German-Confederate general Johann Wagener was forced to capitualate here.
    • Was put in command of the Charleston
    • Caught a very bad case of tuberculosis, and was granted sick leave on April 8, 1865.
  • Last days
    • Looking for a cure for his tuberculosis, he visited Dr. Aaron Smith's Living Springs Water Cure Establishment near Wernersville, PA
    • Had begun writing a book on the Civil War, but was unable to complete it because of his death Died suddenly at Wernersville, PA on Sept. 5, 1865 p>