August (Von) Willich
The late August Willich, prominent Auglaize Co. Civil War Veteran, who won considerable acclaim as the commander of the "Boys in Blue" in their fight to stomp out slavery, before immigrating to this country from his native Germany, served as the commander of the revolutionary forces and a leader of the working class in an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the government of that country in 1848 and 1849. He was born in Braunsberg, Prussia. At the age of 12 was appointed cadet at a military school and three years later entered the military academy in Berlin where in 1828, he was commissioned lieutenant of the artillary. Democratic sentiments were prevalent among the officers and in 1848 he was forced to flee to Switzerland and decided to immigrate to America. He was captured on his way to England and returned to Germany where Napoleon released him in response to public demonstrations. In 1858, he accepted an editorial position with the "German Republican of Cincinnati" and at the start of the Civil war enlisted as a private. His daring and bravery won him promotions at Rich Mountain to Colonel, and Green River to Brigadier General. His career was crowned with one of the grandest feats of the war at Mission Ridge. " In the action of the third day, after Sherman's unsuccessful charges and Grant gave his well-known order for the center to take the enemy's works at the foot of the ridge and stay there. Willich's and Hazen's brigades were at the front with Sheridan's and other divisions at the rear."The whole line moved in double quick through woods and fields and carried works-Willich's brigades going up under concentrated fire of batteries at a point where the two roads met. At this point, General WIllich said that he saw to obey General Grant's order to remain at the works at the foot of the ridge would mean the destruction of the center. To fall back would mean the loss of the battle, with the sacrifice of Sherman. "Willich then issued his own orders by sending three aides to different regiments and rode himself to the 8th Kansas and gave the order to storm the top of the ridge. How brilliantly the order was executed is well known as it gave the northerners one of the greatest victories of the war" (Reid-"Ohio in the War") After the war he was placed in command of a post in Cincinnati, later returning to active duty and accompanied his brigade to Texas, returing as a Brevet Major General. He was elected auditor of Hamilton Co. and served one term before returning to Germany to study at the University of Berlin. In 1870, he requested re-entry to the army. He was denied and returned to the United States and was persuaded to settle in St. Marys, Ohio, by his army friend, Major Charles Hipp. He died in bed on Jan. 23, 1878. His funeral was reported in the St. Marys Argus Newspaper on Jan. 26, 1878, as one of the largest in St. Marys with hundreds and hundreds in the funeral procession.
August (von) Willich was born in the Prussian city of Braunsberg on November 19, 1810. His father had fought in the Napoleonic Wars, and young Willich entered the cadet house at Potsdam at the age of twelve and the military academy at Berlin at fifteen. He was a first lieutenant in the Prussian army at eighteen and a captain at twenty-one. When the disorders of 1846-48 swept Europe, Willich eagerly embraced the teachings of Karl Marx, was permitted to resign from the army after a court-martial, learned the trade of carpenter, and in 1848 after fighting in Baden fled Germany with the collapse of the revolt against the monarchy. He came to the United States in 1853 and secured employment as a carpenter in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. An ardent communist, he was appointed editor of a German-language labor newspaper in Cincinnati in 1858 by the workers' party for whom he fronted. Paradoxically enough, after his induction into the Federal army in 1861, he became one of the premier officers and disciplinarians in the service and in 1870 would offer his services to the King of Prussia, whom he had attempted to overthrow in 1848, to fight the French of Napoleon III. Willich recruited a great number of Germans (reportedly fifteen hundred) in a matter of days after the outbreak of the Civil War, and, after some service with the 9th Ohio, he was commissioned colonel of the 32nd Indiana by Governor Oliver P. Morton, who was seeking a commander for a German regiment raised in that state. Virtually every one of his associates agreed that Willich was daft: he was elderly, spoke English with a strong East Prussian accent, and expected that his men would perform the evolutions of drill in answer to bugle calls. To the surprise of everyone, they did this, not only on the parade ground but also on the battlefield, where their commander was invariably found in front of his line of battle. Willich distinguished himself at Shiloh and Perryville and at Murfreesboro was captured on the first day of the battle after his horse was killed under him. By this time he was a brigadier general, ranking from July 17, 1862. He was paroled and exchanged in time to take part in the fight at Chickamauga, commanding a brigade of Alexander McD. Mc-Cook's XX Corps. At the commencement of W. T. Sherman's campaign against Atlanta, Willich was wounded by a rifle ball in the shoulder at Resaca, but upon his recovery was assigned to command of the combined post of Cincinnati, Covington (Kentucky), and Newport Barracks, Kentucky, where he served until the end of the war. He was brevetted major general to rank from October 21, 1865. Thereafter, General Willich was county auditor at Cincinnati for three years, but he was unable to resist the patriotic lure of a war between his mother country and France and crossed the Atlantic to offer his services to William I of Germany (they were politely declined on the grounds of age. He remained in Berlin for a time, attending lectures by Karl Marx. General Willich later returned to the United States and took up residence in St. Mary's, Ohio, his final home. He died there on January 22, 1878, and was buried in Elmwood Cemetery.
Reference: Generals in Blue. Lives of the Union Commanders by Ezra J. Warner. Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge.