“Glory, Glory Hallelujah!” (Part 3): The Union XI Corps at Gettysburg

Since starting my 10mm American Civil War project last June, I’ve been building up both sides, using the order of battle for the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg as my immediate ‘to do’ list.  In Part 1 of this series I looked at the Union I Corps, which marched to the aid of Buford’s cavalry on the morning of 1st July 1863.  In Part 2 I looked at Buford’s 1st Cavalry Division, which was the first Union formation to engage the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia at Gettysburg.  In this article I’m looking at the ‘unlucky’ Union XI Corps, which consisted mostly of German-speaking immigrants, was the next to arrive at Gettysburg (after I Corps) and which had something of a controversial history.

General Louis Blenker

The XI Corps had a somewhat complicated origin, but its story began with General Louis Blenker’s Division of German immigrants, which was raised in 1861 and initially formed part of the reserve of the Army of the Potomac before being sent west to join General John Fremont’s Army of the Mountain Department.  Unfortunately, Blenker got lost on route, his command ran out of supplies and discipline broke down before they finally reached Fremont’s army.

The German Division was soon committed to battle against ‘Stonewall’ Jackson’s army in the Shenandoah Valley without adequate food, shoes or tents.  To make matters worse, the locals despised them due to their looting during the march and the attitudes of their English-speaking comrades were little better.  As a consequence, the German brigades performed poorly at the Battles of McDowell and Cross Keys and their initial strength of 10,000 was soon whittled down to 7,000 men.

General Franz Sigel

On 26th June 1862, John Fremont’s Army of the Mountain Department was re-designated as the I Corps of John Pope’s Army of Virginia.  Fremont, who outranked Pope, was outraged and immediately resigned his command.  General Franz Sigel was appointed to replace Fremont as commander of the new I Corps and the morale and fighting spirit of the German troops under his command seems to have immediately improved.  The corps was in the thick of the fighting at the Second Battle of Bull Run (aka Second Manassas) and suffered heavy casualties, but didn’t break.

With the merging of the Army of Virginia into the Army of Potomac, there couldn’t be two I Corps in the same army, so Sigel’s ‘German Corps’ (commonly known as ‘Dutch’ – a corruption of ‘Deutsch’) finally received the title of XI Corps on 12th September 1862.  However, with the appointment of General Joseph Hooker to command the Army of the Potomac in February 1863, major disagreements between Hooker and Sigel led to the latter’s resignation and command of XI Corps passed to General Oliver Otis Howard.

General Oliver O. Howard

The loss of Sigel was keenly felt by the Germans, who made up around half of XI Corps (13 out of 27 regiments) and this was exacerbated by Howard’s appointment of the unpopular General Devens to replaced the wounded General Schenck as commander of the 1st Division, as well as Howard’s evangelical Christian fervour, which alienated the anti-clerical Germans and the religious Germans (a mixture of Catholics and Lutherans) alike.

Then came XI Corps’ worst disaster; the Battle of Chancellorsville.  Late in the day, just as XI Corps was settling down into bivouacs, the right flank of the corps was struck by General ‘Stonewall’ Jackson’s Confederate Corps, which had achieved a remarkable flank march, to strike the exposed flank of the Army of the Potomac.  To make matters worse, having placed his corps in this exposed position, Howard then chose that moment to absent himself from his headquarters.  Outflanked and leaderless, XI Corps was rapidly rolled up and routed from the field.  Somewhat astonishingly, Howard kept his job; his failure was mitigated by being out-foxed by the Confederacy’s greatest general and by the fact that ‘Stonewall’ Jackson had been killed in the very moment of defeating XI Corps.  However, his failure to admit fault only made his German troops despise him even more.  To make matters even worse, he appointed General Barlow to replace Devens as commander of the 1st Division; Barlow proved to be a martinet and a petty tyrant, who openly despised the ‘Dutch’ and who immediately stamped his authority on his new command by arresting the popular Colonel von Gilsa for allowing his thirsty men to fetch water!

General Howard’s Headquarters

Two months later, Howard was still in command of XI Corps when it arrived at Gettysburg on the morning of 1st July 1863, marching to the aid of Reynolds’ I Corps.  However, Howard was then shocked to discover that with Reynolds’ death, he was now in command of the Army Wing (I Corps, XI Corps and XII Corps) and therefore the battle.  Command of XI Corps now passed temporarily to General Carl Schurz, commander of the 2nd Division; leadership of which now passed to Brigadier-General Schimmelfennig.  Leaving Von Steinwehr’s 3rd Division in reserve on Cemetery Hill south of the town of Gettysburg (a fortuitous decision), Schurz marched the rest of XI Corps north to shore up the flagging right flank of I Corps, which was coming under pressure from Ewell’s newly-arrived Confederate II Corps.  Schimmelfennig’s 2nd Division was on the left, linking with Wadsworth’s Division of I Corps, while Barlow’s 1st Division was placed on the right with instructions from Schurz to refuse the right flank, in order to avoid another ‘Chancellorsville’…

However, Barlow had other ideas and, seeing an area of high ground approximately 500m forward of his position, he took it upon his own initiative to advance his division to that location (which was subsequently immortalised as ‘Barlow’s Knoll’).  So instead of refusing the flank, as ordered by Schurz, he had now advanced the flank…

The highly experienced General Juball Early, commanding the 1st Division of Ewell’s Confederate II Corps, wasted no time in taking advantage of Barlow’s fatal error.  Barlow’s Knoll was swiftly envaloped by superior numbers and Barlow’s division was crushed and forced to retreat back to Cemetery Hill, suffering even heavier losses than the entire XI Corps had suffered at Chancellorsville.  Among the casualties was Barlow himself, who was left for dead on the battlefield, though later recovered from his wounds as a prisoner of war.  With the right flank now completely exposed, Schimmelfennig’s Division was also forced to retreat, followed by the entire I Corps; all of whom now rallied on the solid position formed by Von Steinwehr’s Division atop Cemetery Hill.  This position was then further reinforced by Slocum’s XII Corps, which took post on the right of XI Corps, around Culp’s Hill.

Shamefully, Howard later pinned the blame for the retreat on to I Corps and Abner Doubleday, who had taken command of I Corps, following the death of Reynolds.  General Meade, a long-time enemy of Doubleday, wasted no time in sacking the blameless general and the truth of Howards’ actions, when revealed, only led the rest of the army to despise XI Corps and the Germans even more.  Nevertheless, XI Corps solidly defended Cemetery Hill against Ewell on 2nd July.

After Gettysburg, the 1st Division (now commanded by Schimmelfennig) was split off from XI Corps and the rest of the corps was transferred along with XII Corps to Hooker’s command in Tennessee.  There the XI Corps partly redeemed its reputation and earned praise for its actions, particularly for their magnificent bayonet-charge at the Battle of Wauhatchie, though ‘s£!t sticks’ and the reputation for bad behaviour remains to this day.

Above: The entire XI Corps, deployed for battle at Gettysburg.  The three divisions are identified by their headquarters flags emblazoned with the Corps’ badge of a crescent-moon (which like all the corps badges of the Army of the Potomac, was adopted on 21st March 1863).  As for I Corps, the corps badges were colour-coded by division and the colour of the badge displayed on the headquarters flags and the men’s caps indicated the division to which they belonged: red = 1st Division, white = 2nd Division & blue = 3rd Division.

General Francis C Barlow

Above: The 1st Division, commanded by Brigadier General Francis C Barlow, is identified by the red crescent-moon badge on the divisional headquarters flag, as well as by the red badges (dots!) on the forage caps of the men.

The division’s 1st Brigade (shown above on the right) was commanded by Colonel Leopold von Gilsa and consisted of 1,138 men belonging to the 41st, 54th & 68th New York and 153rd Pennsylvania Infantry Regiments.  This equates to five bases for Brigade Fire & Fury.  Von Gilsa’s Brigade suffered 530 casualties (dead, wounded and missing), equating to 47% of the starting strength.

The 2nd Brigade (shown above on the left) was commanded by Brigadier General Aldelbert Ames and consisted of 1,341 men of the 25th, 75th & 107th Ohio and 17th Connecticut Infantry Regiments, equating to seven Fire & Fury bases.  Ames’ Brigade suffered 780 casualties, or 58% of its strength.

General Adolph von Steinwehr

Above: The 2nd Division, commanded by Brigadier General Adolph von Steinwehr (a former officer of the Prussian Army), is identified by the white crescent-moon badge displayed on the (blue) headquarters flag and on the men’s caps.

The division’s 1st Brigade (shown above on the left) was commanded by Colonel Charles R. Coster and numbered 1,215 men (6 bases) from the 27th & 73rd Pennsylvania and the 134th & 154th New York Infantry Regiments.  Even though the 2nd Division was in reserve on the 1st July, the brigade suffered 600 casualties or 49% of its strength – mostly during Ewell’s assault on Cemetery Hill on 2nd July.

The division’s 2nd Brigade (shown above on the right) was commanded by Colonel Orland Smith and consisted of 1,640 men (8 bases) belonging to the 55th & 73rd Ohio, 33rd Massachusetts and 136th New York Infantry Regiments.  Of all six brigades, Smith’s Brigade suffered the least, with 350 casualties, or 21% of the brigade’s strength.

General Carl Schurz

Above: The 3rd Division, commanded by Major General Carl Schurz (a former Prussian revolutionary), was actually commanded at Gettysburg by Brigadier General Alexander Schimmelfennig (another former Prussian revolutionary and a communist to boot), commander of its 1st Brigade, due to the temporary elevation of Schurz to command XI Corps during the battle.  The division became broken up during the confused retreat through Gettysburg and Schimmelfennig was forced to hide in the town for several days to avoid capture before rejoining his division.  However, this story was later ‘spun’ as yet another example of ‘Dutch’ cowardice…  The division was identified by its blue crescent-moon badge, which on uniform caps would be coloured sky-blue in order to contrast with the dark blue of the uniform.  On (white) headquarters flags the badge was dark blue.

General Alexander von Schimmelfennig

The division’s 1st Brigade, commanded by Brigadier General Alexander Schimmelfennig (shown above on the right) was the strongest in the corps, with 1,685 men (8 bases) drawn from the 45th & 157th New York, 74th Pennsylvania, 61st Ohio and 82nd Illinois Infantry Regiments.  The brigade suffered a massive 815 casaulties (most of them being captured) or 48% of the brigade’s strength.

The division’s 2nd Brigade (shown above on the left) was commanded by the Polish-born Colonel Wladimir Kryzanowski and numbered 1,420 men (7 bases), made up of the 58th & 119th New York, 75th Pennsylvania, 82nd Ohio and 26th Wisconsin Infantry Regiments.  The brigade suffered 670 casualties at Gettysburg, or 47% of its strength.

Above: By this stage of the war, the Army of the Potomac had removed artillery batteries from divisional control and had massed them all in the Corps Artillery Brigades and the Army Artillery Reserve.  The XI Corps Artillery Brigade was commanded by Major Thomas W. Osborne and comprised five batteries: Battery I/1st Ohio Artillery (6x 12pdr Napoleons), Battery K/1st Ohio Artillery (4x 12pdr Napoleons), Battery I, 1st New York Artillery (6x 3-inch Ordnance Rifles), Battery G/4th US Artillery (6x 12pdr Napoleons) and the 13th New York Artillery (4x 3-inch Ordnance Rifles), for a total of 16x 12pdr Napoleons and 10x 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  In Fire & Fury, each model gun represents a ‘battery’ of eight guns, so the above boils down into 2x 12pdr Napoleon models and 1x 3-inch Ordnance Rifle model, plus crews and limbers.

Models & Painting

All the figures and gun models shown above are 10mm models by Pendraken Miniatures.  The buildings are a mixture of Pendraken and Timecast Models.  The terrain-cloth is by Tiny Wargames.

All painted by me using Humbrol enamels.

This entry was posted in 10mm Figures, American Civil War, American Civil War Union Army, Fire & Fury (Brigade), Painted Units. Bookmark the permalink.

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