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Carl Schurz


CARL SCHURZ'S life has been one of action, adventure, and romance.  Born March 2d, 1829, at Libler, near the city of Cologne, Germany, he pursued a full course of studies at the gymnasium of that city, and, in 1846, became a student of the great University at Bonn, where he applied himself with fervor to the study of the ancient classics, history, and philosophy. In the political outbreak of 1848, he shared in the prevailing agitation, and having become intimate with Gottfried Kinkel, Professor of Rhetoric in the University of Bonn, was concerned with him in the publication of a paper of ultra-liberal views, and which, during Kinkel's absence as a member of the Prussian Legislature, was edited wholly by Schurz. In the Spring of 1849, the two friends made an attempt to originate an insurrection in the town of Bonn, but failed and were obliged to make their escape, seeking refuge in the Palatinate, where a body of the revolutionists had already organized.

Schurz entered the military service as adjutant, and shared in the defence of Radstadt. On the conquest of that fortress, he sought safety in flight, and concealing himself for three days and nights without food, finally escaped through a sewer, made his was: across the Rhine, and succeeded in reaching Switzerland about the beginning of' August, 1849, remaining in seclusion at Zurich until the following May. His friend, Kinkel, meanwhile, had been captured, tried, condemned to a twenty years' imprisonment, and incarcerated in the fortress of Spandau. Schurz conceived the bold idea of releasing him from durance vile, and after a long correspondence with Kinkel's wife, secretly returned to Germany, at great risk to himself, and spent much time at Cologne, and three months at Berlin, engaged in unremitting attempts to establish friendly relations with the guards and others who were brought in contact with the prisoner. The actual attempt at rescue was made November 6th, 1850, when Kinkel's cell was broken open, he was brought out to the roof, and from thence lowered to the ground, and spirited away.

The boldness of the scheme was its success; although the Government, with little probability, was thought to have winked at it. The fugitives found their way across the frontier to Mecklenburg, thence to Rostock, where, after some time spent in concealment, they took passage on a small schooner, in December, to Leith, Schurz then established himself in Paris, finding employment as correspondent of some of the German newspapers, until June, 1851, when he removed to London, and pursued the vocation of a teacher until July, 1852. In that year, having married, he came to America, remaining for some three years in Philadelphia, during which time he devoted his attention largely to political, historical and legal studies, then, after a short visit to Europe, he settled in the practice of the law at Madison, Wisconsin. As might have been expected, from the natural bias of his mind, and the associations of his earlier years, he found in American politics a congenial field for the exercise of his talents, and in the Presidential canvass of 1856, he became famous in the Western country as an orator among the Germans, wielding among them a very powerful influence, in behalf of Republican principles. In 1857, he was nominated by the State Republican Convention as Lieutenant-Governor of the State, but was defeated at the polls. In 1858, on the occasion of the contest between Douglas and Lincoln, for the United States Senatorship of Illinois, he delivered his first public speech in English, which was widely republished in the newspapers of the land. He developed abilities of a high order, as a politician and orator, and his speech on "Americanism," at Faneuil Hall, as also at the Jefferson celebration at Boston, in the spring of 1859, added largely to his reputation. Meanwhile, he had taken up his residence at Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and was engaged in legal practice. During the winter of 1859-60, he was in demand as a lyceum lecturer in New England ; and his speech on " Senator Douglas' Ideas and Policy," delivered in Springfield, Massachusetts, attracted much attention. In 1860, he was a Delegate to the Republican National Convention, in which he swayed great influence, especially in the framing of that portion of the platform which related to citizens of foreign birth. During the Presidential canvass which followed, he led a life of ceaseless activity, haranguing the people in the Northern States, both in the German and English languages; his principal speeches, as rated by their eloquence and popular effect, being that delivered at St. Louis, on "The Irrepressible Conflict," and one entitled "The Indictment Against Douglas," spoken in New York city.

There is no doubt that Mr. Schurz's efforts contributed very largely to the success of the Republican ticket, and his services were appropriately acknowledged in his appointment as Minister to Spain, by President Lincoln, shortly after his inauguration. 
But the outbreak of the war, at this juncture, led him to resign the appointment in order to take a share in the military service of his adopted country. Circumstances, however, seemed to overrule his wishes, and he went to Madrid, where he represented the United States until December, 1861. Immediately upon his return from abroad he threw himself with characteristic energy into the work of aiding the Government; and, among other notable efforts, delivered, at New York, March 6th, 1862, a speech on " The Necessity of Abolishing Slavery, as a Means of Restoring the National Unity," which struck the key-note of the future action of the Lincoln Administration in its dealings with Secession, and has been justly regarded as one of the finest of his oratorical displays.

April 15th, 1862, he was appointed a Brigadier-General of volunteers, and March 14th, 1863, was promoted to the Major Generalship. He was assigned to the command of a division under General Sigel, distinguishing himself at the second Bull Run battle, August, 1862. At Chancellorsville his division of the eleventh corps was panic stricken by the attack of Stonewall Jackson, and was routed in spite of his attempts to rally it, he succeeded, however, in reforming it, and though in reserve for the next two days, its conduct was creditable. At Gettysburg, where not only his own division, but the eleventh corps was temporarily under his command, General Schurz and his soldiers retrieved fully their former reputation; no troops in the army behaving with more steadiness and no commander being more conspicuous for bravery. In the early autumn of 1863, General Schurz and his division formed a part of the eleventh corps, which, under the command of General Howard were sent West to reenforce the Army of the Cumber and. He took part in the battles around Chattanooga, and distinguished himself there as he had done in the East. On the reorganization of the Western Army, under General Sherman, General Schurz resigned, and returned to Milwaukee, from whence he soon removed to Detroit, Michigan.

At the conclusion of the war, General Schurz was appointed by President Johnson Commissioner to visit the South and examine and report upon the affairs of the Freedmen's Bureau. His report, which was very full and able, displeased the President exceedingly. During a part of 1865-66, he was the Washington correspondent of the New York Tribune. In the latter part of 1866, he established the Detroit Post, a very able paper, still in existence; but subsequently disposed of it, and removing to St. Louis started the Westliche Post, of which he is still part proprietor, and to which he contributes frequently. He was a Delegate to the Republican Convention of May, 1868, at Chicago, of which he was temporary chairman, and a leading spirit, and in the ensuing winter was elected (as a Republican) to the United States Senate, succeeding John B. Henderson. He took his seat March 4th, 1869, and his term expires March 4th, 1875. He is one of the youngest members of the Senate, in which body he has no superior in direct, pointed attack, skilful and graceful vehemence, profound mastery of the great principles of political science, and the wide range of his scholarship. His knowledge of the history of America and Europe is very perfect, and he possesses a wonderful facility in acquiring languages, speaking and writing most of those of Europe, and some of the Oriental tongues.

Few dare meet him in debate, for all are aware that he is thoroughly equipped for the conflict, and that the force which he holds in reserve would readily render all their efforts futile. Though quiet, and apparently cold in manner to the superficial observer, there is in him a depth of feeling, an earnestness of patriotism, and a heartiness of friendship which make him a very earnest friend, as he is a stern and unrelenting enemy.

At the Chicago Convention of May, 1868, he was very active in promoting General Grant's election ; but he early became dissatisfied with his course, and became identified with the bolting party in Missouri, in their advocacy of free-trade and a universal amnesty. In the Senate, while ever courteous, he has for some time past been conspicuous for the severity and eloquence of his attacks on the Administration. The sale of arms to France was investigated at his instigation and that of Senator Sumner.

By the North German statesmen, Senator Schurz is pleasantly remembered, and his career has been eagerly watched by them. When he ran for the Senate against Henderson and Ben Loan, it is said that old Baron Gerolt, the Prussian Minister at Washington, appeared for the only time in his life in that city, on "Newspaper Row," sanguine to get points in favor of his friend.

The Senator is on friendly terms with Prince von Bismarck, and takes a deep interest in all that concerns the Fatherland; but he is too fully aware of the grand opportunities which our country offers to a man of great gifts and abilities, to desire ever to return to Germany as a residence. "America," he says, with emphasis, "is my country, and here is to be my future."

Senator Schurz is now in the prime of manhood, forty-three years of age, tall, slender, but of graceful figure, and broad shoulders. He is very near sighted, wears spectacles constantly, and in his air and bearing combines the soldier and the scholar. Though not rich, he possesses a competence, and has that best of all wealth, an accomplished and excellent wife, to whom he is devotedly attached, and beautiful and intelligent children, who inherit the fondness of both parents for study. A volume of the Senator's orations and addresses was published in 1865.

Source: Source: Men of Our Day; or Biographical Sketches of Patriots, Orators, Statesmen, Generals, Reformers, Financiers and Merchants, Now on the state of Action: Including Those Who in Military, Political, Business and Social Life, are the Prominent Leaders of the Time in This Country, by L. P. Brockett, M. D., Published by Ziegler and McCurdy, Philadelphia Penna; Springfield, Mass; Cincinnati, Ohio; St. Louis, Mo., 1872   

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