While a letter to President Lincoln from a number of Port Huron residents—concerning someone that never lived there—may not relate to the cause of historic preservation in the city, it’s a little historical tidbit that probably not too many residents know about (genealogists might find it quite useful). The letter was a show of support for promotion of a certain German-born citizen, Franz Sigel. After the beginning of the Civil War, President Lincoln looked for German-Americans who could rally support for the North’s cause amongst other German immigrants. Apparently, the large German population in Port Huron was familiar with Franz.
Sigel (1824-1902) graduated from a German military academy in 1843. He held high positions in the Baden Revolutionary Army (1848-1849) before fleeing to Britain, and then immigrating to the United States in 1852. He taught school and participated in the State Militia while in New York. Moving to Missouri, he and his father-in-law founded the German-American Institute, where he was a teacher (or professor) beginning in 1857. “Elected director of the city’s public schools three years later, he became increasingly influential within St. Louis’ large German-American community. A vocal opponent of slavery, Sigel worked to attract immigrants to the abolitionist cause” (American Civil War: Major General Franz Sigel).
In May 1861 Lincoln made him a Colonel of a Missouri Infantry. He had wide-spread support, so, despite heavy causalities under his command, he was promoted several times. “He was credited with the victory on March 7‒8, 1862, at the Battle of Pea Ridge, also known as the Battle of Elkhorn Tavern, which secured Missouri for the Union, after which he was promoted to major general” (World Digital Library). It was after this battle that the Port Huron letter was written, yet the letter date of May 2nd, 1862, indicates that it wasn’t simply asking that Sigel be promoted, since that already happened in March of that year. The letter, instead, is requesting that Sigel be under the command of the President alone. It seems that the German immigrants, many of whom were fighting and dying under Sigel, thought more highly of him than the President did. He requested more men, was denied the request, and subsequently lost important battles. His military career ended but he moved on, having publishing and public service-related employment until his death.
The letter is transcribed below. Not all the signer’s names can be read from the digitized letter, but those that can be are also transcribed; very many names are German and are uncertain (feel free to leave a comment if you believe you have a name correction). See the letter images here or view them from their source.
To His Excellency the President of the United States
The present war is waged for the direct interest of the citizens of this Republic and it enormous expenses have to be paid by them, they consider it therefore not only their unquestionable right, but their duty to see that the right man is put in the right place, so that this unhappy and expensive conflict may be brought to a speedier [?] and lasting termination.
Amongst all our Generals Franz Sigel is the one who has met the enemy more frequent than any other, who has under all circumstances shown unflinching personal bravery, untiring energy, and a most superior strategical skill. His very name is a terror to the Rebels, and at Pea Ridge it was he who turned the tide of battle, it was he who achieved that most brilliant of all victories.
Still he has no Independent Command where his genius could do yet more for his country and we, who are so deeply interested in this struggle, ask now the President most respectfully but earnestly, to put General Siegel [sic] at the head of a Corps d’ [. . .], subordinate to the President only, and to assign him a position on the most important field for active service.
Port Huron, Mich
Aug. Thromney [?]
S. B. Schuller
O [?]. J. Bockius
George W. Miller
A. Marentate [Antoine Marentette, as spelled in Andreas 1883:500, where he is listed as Port Huron Treasurer, 1859-62. Oddly enough, Andreas spells his name very differently at his biographical entry on page 584: Antwine Marontate. He was born in Canada and came to Port Huron at 18, engaging in lumbering jobs. He remained in the lumbering trade, but was also Superintendent of the street railway for a time. He was city treasurer for six years, an alderman one year, and also Clerk of the Board of Education for twenty years.]
J. P. Sanborn [John Sanborn worked in general mercantile and lumbering trades before becoming Deputy Collector of Customs (1862), and then Collector (1867). He comes from a New England family and moved to Port Huron in 1847; Andreas 1883:593. He also invested in real estate.]
Horace Zaker [?]
Perly [?] Morse
Jacob Man [?]
F. A. Weyers [Mr. Weyers was born in Germany and came to Port Huron in 1853, opening a grocery and provisions store, which he still operated at the time Andreas wrote his history in 1883 (pages 602-602).]
? Thuesemezer [?]
H. J. Bockius [There is another person with what seems to be the same last name above. Andreas 1883 includes a biography of Mr. Bockius on page 558. He came to Port Huron from Canton, Ohio, in 1853 and opened a boot and shoe shop, which he was still operating when Andreas wrote his history. His ancestors came to the U.S. prior to the Revolutionary War.]
Peter Eneh [?]
Chas. M. Lanbone [?]
E. Oettenburger [Ernest Ottenburger is listed as a City Supervisor for the year 1871 in Andreas 1883, page 487. On page 500 he’s listed as an Alderman for the city in 1872, and his name is spelled “Ortenburger.”]
Stephan L [?]
Loh . . . ?
William Klumffe [?]
Chr. Staigev [?]
J. Byron Hull [Mr. Hull was a Township or City Supervisor in 1878 according to Andreas 1883, page 487, but on page 501 he is shown to be a city controller in that same year.]
Sigmond Goodman [Sigmond was a city treasurer in 1871 and an alderman in 1877 and 1879. He was a native of Germany and moved to Port Huron in 1860. He was a tailor and operated a clothing store. Andreas 1883:500, 572.]
John Kern . . . ?
Lewis Askins [?]
Edward V . . . ?
Andrew Eymer [?]
Augustus [?] L . . . ?
John Jaifs [?]
George ? Gardner
Fred R. Leraufs [?]
Philipp Endlich [Mr. Endlich has a short biographical entry in Andreas 1883, page 569. He was born in Germany and came to Port Huron in 1857. He owned and operated The City Bakery, having started out renting Flugal’s bakery in 1860.]
F. Schults [A Fred Schulte is listed in Andreas 1883, page 487, as a Supervisor for the Township or City in 1866]
Oswald Unger [Oswald was a German immigrant and made his way to Port Huron in 1856. He manufactured and sold guns, pistols, and fishing tackle. Andreas 1883;599.]
G . . . S . . . ?
Jacob Jimmy [??]
J. J. Ernste
John Hauslee [?]
G. Meisel [Gottleib C. Meisel was born in Germany but came to Port Huron as a boy. His brother, C. G. Meisel, opened a store where Gottleib worked and then partnered in. He married Anne McMorran. Andreas 1883:585.]
Other Sources: Andreas, A. T. & Co., History of St. Clair County, Michigan (Chicago 1883).
This post was updated on July 25, 2016.