Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood
October 14, 1863

Wheeling Intelligencer
October 14, 1863

General Sigel to Speak in Wheeling To-Night.

Major General Franz Seigl, the distinguished German officer and the hero of Pea Ridge, who by his services in the field and before the people has given such earnest proof of his patriotism, as well as his thorough appreciation of our American institutions, is to be here to-night at the solicitation of quite a number of citizens and sojourners, will address the people of Wheeling at Washington Hall. The mere announcement will bring together more people than can possibly get in the hall, commodious as it is, we would suggest, therefore, that if the weather is at all favorable the General be induced to speak out of doors, say from the balcony of the McLure House or from the steps of the Court House. Our German fellow citizens will of course be out in their strength to do honor to their illustrious countryman.

The following note to General Sigel is signed mostly by member of the Legislature. It was gotten up hastily yesterday, simply as an informal expression of welcome and appreciation to General Sigel on the part of the people of West Virginia.

Wheeling, West Va., October 13, 1863.

GENERAL: -- Having learned that you will pass through our city to-morrow evening, we have the honor to request you to stop over if consistent with your time and duties and address us upon the general topics of the day.

You have a host of friends in this region as well as elsewhere who are very desirous of making your acquaintance and of listening to an address from you. The time being so short since hearing that you would be here I have appointed a meeting in the hope that you would certainly address us.

We remain respectfully,

E. M. Norton,
F. P. Peirpoint,
P.G. Van Winkle,
Lee Roy Kramer,
T. Moore,
Wm. L. Crawford,
J. H. Atkinson,
Geo. McC. Porter,
H.N. Crooks,
W. D. Rollyson,
H. W. Crothers,
W. T. Wiant,
Campbell Tarr,
James Burley.

Wheeling Intelligencer
October 15, 1863

Arrival of Gen. Sigel - His Enthusiastic reception and Speech at the McLure House.

According to announcement yesterday, Major Gen. Sigel arrived in the city about half past five last evening from Pittsburgh. He was escorted over from Bridgeport by quite a number of citizens on horseback, under the lead of Louis Keller, the General, himself, riding in the carriage of the Hon. Sherrard Clemens, in company with Messrs. Gen. Wheat, E. M. Norton and Jacob Berger. Quite a large crowd had congregated around the McLure house awaiting the arrival of the distinguished German soldier, anxious to get a glimpse at him. - May persons followed him into the hotel in order to be introduced and pay their respects. Before it was cleverly dark the crown outside commenced increasing and when, about half past six, fireworks and rockets were let up and shot off the tide of population was attracted from all parts of the city, and by seven o'clock had blocked up all passage down Market and Monroe streets. About half past seven the General made his appearance on the balcony of the McLure and the sight of him was the signal for three rousting cheers from the vast concourse of people below him. When order was restored Mr. E. M. Norton stepped forward and read the following introduction.

My Fellow Citizens - In a few moments I shall have the honor, and experience the pleasure of introducing to your personal acquaintance that patriot, soldier, orator and scholar, of whom you have heard so much. A man whose name and fame has become a familiar household word in this broad land of ours. One whose burning thoughts and words of love towards our country and her institutions captivates us all, and inspires each loyal heart, with higher and more exalted views of unity and liberty, whose good sword has so often carried confusion and dismay into the serried ranks of the despots and demoniacs arrayed in hate to divide the nation and enslave its population. A German, a democrat, a Republican indeed, whose deep devotion to the principles of universal liberty, equality, fraternity, justice and unity impels him, as it did the revered Lafayette, Dekalb and Polaski to devote his life, his fortune and his sacred honor for the preservation of the principles for which they contended. Honor, then my countrymen is due this noble German American citizen, and not him alone, but to all the tens of thousands of his noble countrymen who this day stand shoulder to shoulder with our loyal brothers breasting the surging wives of rebellion, which if it break the barrier they array against it, will carry accursed slavery instead of loved liberty over every foot of soil from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and from the Lakes to the Gulf. Millions have sworn that wave shall not break through nor inundate the land, and none more religiously than the man I now present to you, Major General Franz Sigel the hero of Pea Ridge.

To this flattering introduction the General gracefully bowed his acknowledgements, and stepping forward to the iron railing and looking down for a moment attentively on the people, said:

My friends of West Virginia - It gives me great happiness to be here among you. I came from far away in the Eastland in the West, where I have been speaking for Curtin and Brough. I have been trying to do something for the cause which I hope you have at heart - the cause of this great country - the cause of humanity - the cause of liberty. I did not come to freshen your memory of myself, nor of any part that I have taken in the great contest for the Union, however grateful I may feel for what has been said by way of introduction, and for the cordial and kind way in which you have received that introduction. I honor the people of West Virginia - I honor this new free State, and I honor this city, now so well known over the country for her noble stand in this rebellion. Your city deserves forever to be remembered among those cities of other days and other nations that have preserved freedom. She will live in history along with St. Louis and Baltimore and those places in the Slave States that did not go into rebellion against their country. Here it was in West Virginia that this war was opened. Here the gallant Rosecrans won his laurels; here the heroic Fremont made his great march; here the brave Milroy endeared himself to the country. The rebellion first spent its fury upon you, and you nobly resisted it. To-day you have more soldiers in the field in proportion to your population and the circumstances surrounding you, than any State in the Union. I honor such a people, and the country, too, honors and admires you. I have had the troops of West Virginia under my command - I know well your gallant 2d and 2d and 9th regiments. No better soldiers are in the army of the Union. They are always ready to meet the point of danger. I know too your 1st Virginia cavalry, one of the most vigilant and serviceable commands in the army. I would honor also to-night the battery once so gallantly led by the lamented Capt. Buell. You have for these two years and a half borne a noble part in the war.

This war, men of West Virginia, although not a war for States, is eminently a war on your behalf. You are on the border. - Here is to be the line the rebels propose to run. You are to be saved from the horrors of being a border - a ground of contention - an uncertain spot - a bloody field of strife forever. You have a peculiar interest in the salvation of the Union unbroken. Its destruction has no future for you but of desolation and depopulation.

My friends, this is a sacred war - a war waged for the last hope of man. It is a war between freedom and slavery - between humanity and inhumanity - between progress and barbarism. Loving freedom as I did in my fatherland, and having long known and felt that division and discord was weakness and despotism, I shrink from the thought of seeing my adopted country divided and made the prey of tyrants. - The same great battle for the onward march of freedom is being fought in America new that has been repeatedly fought in the old world; the same that was fought in England under Charles I - in France under Louis XVI - in Germany during the thirty years war. It is the same that was fought in Switzerland when the Southern cantons of that now happy land rebelled. It is the same that was lately fought in Italy under the lead of Garabaldi, who broke down the tyranny of the Kingdom of Naples and drove out the hated Bourbon. - The rebellion is the Naples of America. - There can be no liberty - no composure - no peace, until it is crushed.

My friends this is the same war of 1776. This nation then went to war to establish the rights of man. She is now at war to maintain them. It is not a play thing to put down such a rebellion as this. I am afraid we do not all see the full extent of the dangers that threaten us, and although it may not be policy in me to point them all out, yet we should not deceive ourselves in regard to what may be in the future. This great republic, where all of us have so long been free and happy and prosperous, is threatened with more dangers than one. Look at England - look at France - look at Mexico - look at Jeff Davis - look at the Copperheads in our midst. All are working to the same end; all are in unison to destroy this great and good government. What means the coming of Maximilian, a scion of the tyrant house of Hapsurg to Mexico? Does it mean liberty? No; it means white slavery, just as Jeff Davis rebellion means black slavery. Napoleon who has destroyed the liberties of France now threatens ours. Perfidous England, who never does anything boldly or openly, is secretly at work in alliance with the Cotton planters of the South. - She is at the head of the scheme for establishing Maximilian in Mexico.

But all these designs, my friend, are not to be feared as are the schemes and aims of the Copperheads. They lurk in our midst, holding their opportunity to strike. If they were in our front we could meet them, but they disguise themselves and pretend to be neutrals and even friends. - This rebellion and this copperheadism is all one and the same monster, and while Jeff Davis as its head, Vallandigham is its tail. The Copperheads are the re-actionist who are the allies of the enemy within our lines. Do you stop to think, my friends, that all that is mean, all that is sordid, all that is despotic, all that is baleful to liberty is arrayed in this rebellion or in sympathy with it. It is made up of men who believe that human rights are the privilege of only a few - who would have an aristocracy built up on the ownership of man, and those who sympathize with it are the degraded creatures of our cities, villages and towns, who kill people because of their color - who burn houses because those who own them are the friends of liberty. All the odds and ends of these mean and sordid elements will flock around the standard of Maximilian in opposition to the proud flag above me - the symbol of protection to the weak and elevation to the oppressed. Some of you complain that the Government is tyrannical. I am of those who believe it is too lenient, I am so because I see the great dangers which it has to meet. It must save itself from the hands of its destroyers. If it cannot reason with them it must arrest them - Severe discipline is always a mercy; it is always good policy. Do not be deceived by those who cry peace in your ears. It is the effort of the enemy to break you down. Are you ready to withdraw the armies of the Union from New Orleans and give up the city again to the slaveholding rebels. Are you willing to give up, Vicksburg, Nashville, Memphis, Chattanooga? If you are, the army is not. It would never submit to so great a shame. Never. You cannot withdraw your armies unless you are willing to acknowledge the Southern Confederacy. And what does that promise you? They talk to you of compromise. I would like to see the compromise that Jeff Davis and Fernando Wood would get up? What would it mean? Submission to the Union on their part or submission to the rebellion and slavery on your part? No, my friends, you can never separate this country. Nature forbids it. There is no boundary for a separation, and there would be no peace -- no happy future. You cannot draw a military line of defense. No country in the world could support an army large enough to maintain such a line! You could not establish a political line, on one side of which men should be free and on the other side of which they should be slaves.

General Sigel then turned to a consideration of our foreign relations - our dangers from England and France. He took the ground that the lever through the country, now prevailing, for an alliance with Russia was a new danger and also a danger indeed. It would be a diplomatic alliance - not one on principle, and it would lose us moral support and sympathy from the only friends we had in Europe. The liberty loving masses of Europe - of England, France, Germany, Poland, Hungary, hated Russia. Beside such an alliance would bring us no strength. What avail is Russia. She seeks us for her own diplomatic, selfish purposes.

In conclusion General Sigel addressed himself to his adopted fellow citizens, adjuring them by what they had known and felt of despotism in their fatherland, and by that pearl of great price which they found here in America to stand fast and true and loyal forever to the government. In so doing they would wipe out the last vestige of demarcation between themselves and native citizens; their common blood flowing together upon a common battlefield, in a common cause, would make a cement for all future time.

At the conclusion of his speech the General was vociferously applauded. The Germans clamored for some remarks to them in their native tongue. The General concluded to indulge them and for about fifteen or twenty minutes he addressed them in German. He found no embarrassment or lack for language in so doing. - The words rolled with a musical cadence from his tongue, showing the native power the man really possessed as a speaker. In this brief outline we have not pretended to do General Sigel anything like justice. His speech was really one of peculiar and striking force. It showed him to be no less a thinker than an actor in this war. - He appreciates as a man what he has the courage and principle as a soldier to fight for.

After he had got through and retired from the balcony of the hotel, he was detained in the parlor by the crowd of ladies and gentlemen who were anxious to shake hands and say a word of welcome to him. He will leave the city this evening for the East.

Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: October 1863

West Virginia Archives and History