1848 Chapter 7: Leaden Time
Why did the Revolution fail?
The Baden-Palatinate Revolution of 1849 was defeated on the battlefield. But it also failed because of its internal contradictions: Liberals wanted to limit the upheavals to Baden, even to bring back the grand duke. Radical republicans, on the other hand, planned to export the revolution because they wanted to save the new imperial constitution: Parliament, the revolutionary army and the masses of the people were to unite in the military struggle for the one German republic. Both failed because of the Prussian military power.
But the revolution did not find sufficient support at home either: people in the countryside demanded tax relief, craftsmen longed for the return of the protective tariff policy, while aspiring factory owners propagated free trade. This bourgeois-peasant strata did not want a complete overthrow of power relations.
The revolutionary tourists from all over Europe, ready to use violence, also frightened the bourgeoisie and the rural population. After the Prussian invasion, the population’s approval rapidly declined. In the end, the victors were in parts greeted joyfully.
The Victors' Reckoning: Shootings, Penitentiary and Expropriation
In Rastatt, Prussian summary courts swing into action: two officers, 26 non- commissioned officers and soldiers are executed by martial law. Hundreds of soldiers, civil servants, and politically compromised persons are sentenced to long prison terms, some to life imprisonment. All those convicted have to pay damages, most of them are ruined. Several mayors and municipal employees are dismissed without pensions.
Because of the empty treasury, an extraordinary property tax and a state bond are levied. Throughout the country, bans are issued; gymnastics clubs, singing groups, and fire departments are disbanded.
The Baden army is subjected to a rigorous purge. Prussian and Baden soldiers loyal to the line, on the other hand, receive a medal: The population contemptuously calls the award the „fratricide medal.“ On August 18th 1849, Grand Duke Leopold I returns to Karlsruhe in an open carriage – accompanied by the Prussian crown prince. Leopold I speaks of the „most disgraceful rebellion“ and revokes all liberties. Only his son, Grand Duke Frederick I, amnesties the last still imprisoned revolutionaries until 1862.
Josef Günthart from Constance: Executed in Rastatt
Josef Günthart from Constance has performed military service in the 3rd Infantry Regiment since 1843. In May 1849, the regiment is involved in the
mutiny against commanders and officers of the federal fortress of Rastatt. Soldiers press the governor of the fortress to release comrades from arrest who had previously made speeches on freedom.
Günthart presumably also takes such a significant part in these protests that he can later be denounced by officers as an accomplice. After the capitulation of the fortress, the young Constance native is brought before the “Standgericht” on September 21st 1849, and sentenced to death for „mutiny and breach of loyalty.“ The following day he dies at half past four in the morning under the bullets of a Prussian firing squad. In 1873, his grave in Rastatt receives a memorial plaque. Today, the metal plaque is in the Rosgarten Museum in Constance.
Konrad Heilig: A courageous Pfullendorfer
Born in Pfullendorf, he trained as a barber before becoming a professional soldier. In the Baden artillery, he rises to the rank of sergeant. On May 12th 1849, when the Baden Minister of War, General Hoffmann, wants to fire cannons at the soldiers mutinying in the Rastatt fortress, Heilig offers resistance: he throws himself in front of one of the cannons, whereupon the gunners refuse to fire.
In the days that follow, Heilig is promoted to major and commander of the fortress artillery by Revolutionary General Franz Sigel. Until the end, Heilig refuses to surrender the fortress to the Prussians.
After the unconditional surrender, Konrad Heilig becomes the victim of an order by the Prussian king: mutinous soldiers of the Prussian and Baden armies are to be punished by death. Convicted of „breach of loyalty and high treason,“ Heilig, then 32 years old, is executed on August 11th 1849, along with 19 other revolutionaries.
Wilhelm Adolph von Trützschler: Shot in Mannheim
He leaves his life on a „sand hill fertilized with human blood“, as it says in an obituary forthe „civil commissioner“ of the Baden revolutionary government in Mannheim, Adolph von Trützschler. The 41-year-old Saxon
is executed in Mannheim’s main cemetery on August 14th 1849. Commemorating Trützschler and others executed remains forbidden in Baden for decades.
The lawyer, who came from the Vogtland region, broke away early on from his aristocratic family’s thinking about class. As a member of the National Assembly, he campaigned for German unity and for the people’s rights to freedom. Prussia’s rejection of the imperial constitution deeply aggravated him. At the beginning of the Baden uprising in Baden, he allows himself to be drawn into the revolutionary government.
When Prussian troops storm the city, Trützschler is falsely accused of having robbed public funds. His death sentence has long since been determined when his wife Gabriele and hundreds of Mannheim citizens submit a petition. The court refuses to accept it. Gabriele can still say goodbye, then her husband is shot at dawn.
Joseph Weißhaar: A New Start in St. Gallen
In the spring of 1848, the 34-year-old innkeeper Joseph Weißhaar is elected commander of the citizens‘ militia in Lottstetten. Weißhaar’s inn „Engel“ is located on the road from Schaffhausen to Zurich, and the innkeeper is always well informed. Friedrich Engels is also his guest. Weißhaar knows the hardships of his countrymen, which is why he takes part in Hecker’s “Freischarenzug” with his own column of 600 men.
In the Baden Revolution of 1849, Weißhaar is appointed by the revolutionary government as „government representative in the district of Jestetten“ and elected as a deputy. In July 1849 he flees to Switzerland with the remnants of the revolutionary army. In 1850, the Bruchsal court sentences him to eight years in prison, and his assets are confiscated. Weißhaar’s wife and six children are left penniless. Weißhaar was not granted amnesty until 1857.
By then he is already a successful timber merchant in Zurich. Later he becomes an innkeeper and brewer in St. Fiden in the canton of St. Gallen.
The municipality admits the family to citizenship. In 1870, the best-known innkeeper of the Baden Revolution dies in Switzerland at the age of 56.
Emigration to the U.S. - In the Civil War against Slavery
Until 1855, hundreds of thousands of Germans make their way to the U.S.. Politically charged insurgents have to flee, others are driven by necessity. America takes them in kindly. The hard work in the fields is difficult for the academics among the immigrants; many only get unskilled jobs as coachmen, laundresses and cigar rollers.
The „Forty-Eighters“ (48ers), as they are called, find a political home in the pro-immigrant Democratic Party. They are committed to opposing Southern slavery. However, when the Democratic Party allows the expansion of slavery, a break occurs. Now the Germans support the new Republican Party. In the presidential campaign of 1860, they campaign for Abraham Lincoln.
When eight slaveholding Southern states secede from the Union after Lincoln’s election, the American Civil War begins. Of the 2.1 million Union soldiers, 216,000 are Germans. All-German regiments are formed in New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Ohio. 600,000 Americans fall before the Southern states succumb militarily in 1864. Slavery is abolished. The Civil War contributes significantly to the integration of German immigrants.
Opinions differ on his military prowess. During the American Civil War (1861-1865), Franz Sigel, a professional soldier from Sinsheim, experienced defeats and victories as commander of a German volunteer regiment, becoming a brigadier general and head of an army corps. His begrudging military superiors praise the strategic talent of the „revolutionary general“, but criticize weaknesses in practical implementation.
This does not faze Sigel’s soldiers: As they did when he commanded the Baden revolutionary army in 1849, they stand by him. The German-born soldiers sing the Sigel song in their English gibberish: „Yah, daus is true, I
schpeaks mit you: I`am going to fight mit Sigel.“ Years earlier, in 1848, he tried to instruct Constance men in the craft of war. During the 1849 revolution, he was minister of war for the provisional government, then fled to Switzerland. In the U.S. after the Civil War, Sigel became editor of the daily newspaper „New York Deutsches Volksblatt“ and a politician. Several monuments commemorate the Badener, who died in New York City in 1902.
Augustin Schmid: A Brewer loses Everything
Augustin Schmid, a brewer, innkeeper and malt manufacturer from Hohenzollern in Constance, was the first to brew long-life lager, which he sold as far away as Zurich. The inn „Zum Badischen Hof“, which he had remodeled, became a meeting place for democrats. For a time Schmid finances the Belle-Vue publishing house in Emmishofen and the „Seeblätter“. However, he does not participate in the Hecker Uprising of 1848, but later collects donations for its persecuted participants.
In the Baden Revolution of 1849, Schmid participates as commander of the mounted citizen militia in the Lake District and allegedly smuggles barrels full of money for the revolutionary army across the Swiss border. In 1850, the court sentences him to three years in prison, and the state confiscates all his assets.
The ruined Schmid is pardoned for emigration: at the age of 50, he has to emigrate to the U.S. with his family. Together with the Jewish merchant Bernheimer, he founds the Constance Brewery and a malt factory in South Jersey.
Hecker in the U.S.: Against Slavery and Women's Suffrage
In the 33 years of his life as a citizen of the United States, Friedrich Hecker becomes one of the most influential German immigrants from the generation of the „Forty-Eighters“. Together with his wife Marie Josefine, he farms in Illinois, writes for numerous newspapers, and fights for the
Union and against slavery as commander of two German volunteer regiments in the American Civil War.
As a campaign speaker for Abraham Lincoln, he also polemicizes against women’s suffrage, like many liberals of the time. To protect German brewers, he railed against the temperance movement of pious American circles. He is equally resolute in defending the legal equality of freed slaves.
Only once more, in 1873, does Hecker enter the old German homeland. On a tour, the population cheered him, but in the liberal press he is criticized for his negative attitude toward the new German Empire. The old warhorse is not bothered by this, and writes to his friend Carl Schurz: „My mug was too unshaped for a muzzle.”
Carl Schurz: First German-born Minister of the U.S.
Carl Schurz, a surviving revolutionary soldier from the fortress of Rastatt, speaks almost no English when he arrives in New York with his wife Margarethe. Barely a year later, he has learned the language through self- study. He is in contact with the well-known „Forty-Eighters“, Friedrich Hecker becomes his friend. In 1857 Schurz is elected to the city council of Watertown. In a short time Schurz becomes one of the most important advisors of the later president Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln sends him as ambassador to Spain. During the Civil War, Schurz returns, becomes a brigadier general and temporarily leads a division.
After the war, he works for the „New York Tribune,“ and in 1867 becomes co-editor of the „Western Post“ in St. Louis, Missouri. Under President Rutherford B. Hayes, Schurz, now 48, is appointed Secretary of the Interior. Along with Henry Kissinger, he is still the only German immigrant to reach ministerial rank in the United States.
His four-year term in office is characterized by downright green politics: Schurz introduces laws that restrict the gigantic overexploitation of North American forests. In dealing with indigenous Native Americans, he ends the policy of „broken treaties, unjust wars and cruel exploitation“ by emphasizing integration of „Indians“ through education. Because of his
characteristic pinch, the chiefs respectfully call him „Four eyes.“ In 1906, Schurz dies in New York City at the age of 77.
August von Willich: A Noble Revolutionary
In April 1848, August von Willich, an artillery lieutenant discharged from the Prussian army because of his sympathy for the communist „League of the Righteous,“ rushes south. In Constance, the 38-year-old trains the citizen militia. The year before, Willich had discarded his noble title. After the failed “Heckerzug”, he escapes to Switzerland.
In the Baden-Palatinate uprising of 1849, Willich fights as commander-in- chief of the Palatinate revolutionary troops. For a time Friedrich Engels is his adjutant. After the failure of the revolution, Willich joins the League of Communists around Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in London, but falls out with the two friends.
From 1853 onwards he works as a carpenter, surveyor and as editor of the German-language newspaper „Cincinnati Republikaner. Organ of the Workers“ in the U.S.. At the beginning of the Civil War he becomes commander of a German regiment, which he trains according to the Prussian army regulations. After successfully fighting battles, Willich becomes a brigadier general. At the beginning of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, he offers his services to Prussia, which they refuse because of Willich’s past. He dies in 1878 in St. Marys, Ohio.
Ludwig Blenker: Champagne in the Military Camp
In Worms in 1848, wine merchant Ludwig Blenker leads the city’s militia as colonel. During the 1849 uprisings, he commands Rhenish-Hessian and Palatine “Freischaren”, which achieve significant successes under his command. After the defeat, Blenker flees to Switzerland, who expel him. With his wife Elise he emigrates to the U.S., where the couple runs a farm.
At the beginning of the Civil War, he is given command of a German infantry regiment from New York. In the First Battle of Bull Run, the brigade he commandes holds out against the advancing Southern troops,
preventing the capture of Washington. Blenker is considered the most capable of the German-born generals. His eccentric idiosyncrasies are legendary: for example, he wears a uniform coat with purple lining and obligingly entertains guests in the field camp with champagne.
In 1863, he hands in his resignation, but falls from his horse while still on duty and dies in Virginia at the age of 51.
The 'Noble Hecker': Forbidden Memory
Shortly after the suppression of the revolution, the actors, who fled, publish memoirs and pamphlets of vindication. Mutual recriminations further divide the camps of former constitutional liberals and radical democrats.
In the population the reputation of the revolution’s „heroes“ grows the longer ago the events lie in the past. A veritable „Heckerkult“ spread. The authorities forbade the wearing of the popular „Hecker hats,“ the red plumes and black-red-gold cockades. Revolutionary flags are kept like shrines, and portraits of Friedrich Hecker and Gustav Struve hung in back rooms.
The victims of the battles and the summary courts are not allowed to be remembered publicly. Germany wins its political unity in 1871 after several wars under Prussian leadership. The political freedom of the individual falls by the wayside. The highest prestige as a man is enjoyed by those who make it to the rank of „reserve officer“ in the empire. Women did not gain the right to vote until 1919, and legal equality was not achieved until the Federal Republic of Germany after 1949.