Ohio History Journal












The contributions of the German Turner organiza-

tions to American cultural history are among the most

important of the many results of the extensive German

immigration of the nineteenth century. That Ohio had

received its full share of these new additions to the

American population was evident from the numerous

social and benevolent organizations, so characteristic of

the life of the Germans, which sprang into existence in

the more important Ohio cities by the middle of the last

century. The German Turnvereine, because of their pur-

pose and program of work, were able to make a real

contribution to the cultural history of the state.

The German Turner organizations trace their

origin to the dark days of Napoleonic domination in

Europe, at the beginning of the nineteenth century,

when the German Empire lay hopelessly disrupted and

prostrate under the heel of the French oppressor. Yet

in this darkest hour of German humiliation, a few

dauntless spirits still dared to plan for the war of lib-

eration, from which should come a new Germany, united

and free. Friedrich Ludwig Jahn was one of those who


The Ninth Ohio Volunteers 403

The Ninth Ohio Volunteers       403

continued to preach the gospel of a free German nation,

but he placed his emphasis upon a new theme entirely. He

believed and taught the importance of physical exercise

and strength in national development, and planned to

create a new organization which should emphasize

physical training as a means of fostering patriotic ideals.

In 1811, Father Jahn, as he was affectionately known to

all his followers later, established his first Turnplatz, on

the Hasenheide, in Berlin. The ancient plea of Juvenal

for Mens sana in sano corpore became the motto of

Jahn's new movement. Jahn labored eagerly to develop

in his pupils not only the sound and well disciplined

body, but also a mind which would be sensitive to liberty

and freedom, and prepared for service in the coming

struggle for a united, republican Germany. Patriotism,

hatred of oppression, and a passionate devotion to lib-

erty, were from the first the fundamental principles of

the Turner movement.

In 1813, after Napoleon's disastrous Moscow cam-

paign, Germany launched her war of liberation, and ex-

pelled the foreign tyrant from the German land. Jahn,

and many of his Turners, played a glorious role in these

stirring days. But for them and other German Liberals,

the expulsion of Napoleon was but the beginning of a

larger task. From their quavering rulers they extracted

promises for the democratization of the government,

and demanded written constitutions, -- promises and

demands soon to be forgotten when the age of Metter-

nich, the age of dark reaction, dawned upon a war-

weary Europe, relieved at last from the domination of

the ambitious Corsican. In Prussia, the weak and vacil-

lating King Frederick William III not only forgot his

404 Ohio Arch

404     Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications

recent promises to the people, to give them a liberal

constitution, but all democratic movements were now

watched with the greatest suspicion. The Turner

movement was suppressed, and Jahn himself, in spite

of his recent services to his country, was spied upon by

the Prussian police, and finally was committed to jail

for five years. All turning was declared illegal, and the

gymnasium apparatus of the Turner societies was or-

dered dismantled. The organization was entirely too

radical for the age of Metternich. For a time the move-

ment languished, but its fervent republicanism could not

be entirely suppressed, and it burst forth anew in the

glorious, but ill-fated revolutionary days of 1848.

As early as 1824, Jahn's theories of physical educa-

tion had been carried to America by German immi-

grants. Dr. Carl Beck and Dr. Carl Follen, two Ger-

man intellectuals familiar with the work of Jahn, ar-

rived in New England in 1824. Both found employment

in the famous Round Hill boys' school, established at

Northampton, Massachusetts, by George Bancroft, the

historian. Here Beck organized the first gymnasium in

America, conducted on the principles of Jahn, and here

he translated into English Jahn's manual on Deutsche

Turnkunst. Follen was soon called to the Harvard fac-

ulty, and he established a gymnasium at that institu-

tion. Franz Lieber, another of Jahn's pupils who had

been a volunteer in the War of Liberation, opened a

gymnasium and swimming school in Boston, which soon

attracted wide attention.

But the Turner movement did not make great prog-

ress in the United States until the heavy immigration

of Germans set in in 1848 and 1849. Many of the new

The Ninth Ohio Volunteers 405

The Ninth Ohio Volunteers        405

arrivals in this later period were German intellectuals

and university men, and political refugees compelled to

leave their fatherland after the failure of the revolu-

tions of 1848. Many of these "Forty-Eighters" had

been members of Turner organizations at home; in all

of them burned a passion for greater liberty and free-

dom. And so they transplanted the German Turnge-

meinde, along with their other organizations and cul-

tural interests, to their adopted fatherland.

In the fall of 1848, the first Turner organization in

the United States was organized in Cincinnati, under

the leadership of Friedrich Carl Franz Hecker, an in-

surrectionist in the unsuccessful rebellion in Baden in

1848, and now an exile from Germany. Turner socie-

ties soon sprang up in many American cities where there

was an appreciable German population. In Boston, the

chief organizer was Karl Heinzen; in New York it was

Gustav Struve, a Frankfurt revolutionist, who took the

initiative; in Milwaukee, August Willich was the center

of the group. In 1850, the first Turner Hall in the

United States was dedicated in Cincinnati. Soon a na-

tional publication, Die Turnzeitung, was established,

and by 1853, the North American Turnerbund included

sixty societies, with Cincinnati the headquarters for one

of its five districts. The instructors of all these organi-

zations were Germans, who had received their training

in physical education in Germany. By 1875, a normal

school, to train physical education teachers, was opened

in Milwaukee. The Turners, and the German element

in general, began to urge the introduction of organized

courses in light gymnastics into the public school cur-

riculum, and the early success of this agitation in cities

406 Ohio Arch

406     Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications

like Chicago, Denver, Kansas City, Cleveland, Indian-

apolis, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, etc., was largely due to

the persistence of these advocate of the German system

of gymnastics. For years, the directors of physical edu-

cation were either imported from abroad, or were grad-

uates of the normal school maintained by the North

American Turnerbund.

The organization, following German precedent, was

as much interested in cultural development as it was in

the development of sound bodies. As an adjunct to the

Turner societies, singing and dramatic sections were

created, and in many of the important German centers

highly artistic concerts featured the work of these or-

ganizations. Great pageants and complicated tableaux

were presented, and the public exhibitions of the United

German Turners attracted wide attention. In addition

to these aesthetic interests, the Turners, in their Halls

arranged for lectures and discussions in history, eco-

nomic theory, problems of government, etc. Reading

rooms and libraries were founded. The Turner move-

ment soon gained, in some quarters, considerable no-

toriety for its interest in radical reform programs. It

advocated the initiative and referendum, methods for

the recall of delinquent public officials, direct popular

election of all public officials, social welfare legislation

of a very advanced, socialistic nature, a readjustment

of the taxation system to destroy the inequalities be-

tween rich and poor, tariff reform, destruction of mo-

nopolies, etc. The early Socialist movement in the

United States derived most of its support from the Ger-

man element. These demands for reforms in the social

order usually went hand in hand with a very rational-

The Ninth Ohio Volunteers 407

The Ninth Ohio Volunteers        407

istic and anti-clerical attitude in matters of religion and

the organized church. Numerous independent congre-

gations were established among the German population,

entirely free from creedal tests, and perhaps best de-

scribed as rationalist, ethical culture groups. More

specifically, the Turners opposed all forms of nativism,

so rampant in the 1850's, and also fought the growing

prohibition movement, which they denounced as un-

democratic, destructive of personal rights, and imprac-

tical. The Turner literature, particularly the Turner

lyrics written by leaders like Carl Heinrich Schnauffer

and Johann Straubemuller of Baltimore, breathed the

spirit of liberty, freedom of thought and belief, and

individual rights. Small wonder that many "native

Americans" became much alarmed by the apparent

skepticism and socialistic philosophy of these new ar-

rivals, whose whole point of view was so fundamentally

opposed to the Puritan principles which still dominated

American life.1

It was to be expected that an organization of this

nature would take a very definite position in the anti-

slavery struggle of the decade just preceding the Civil

War. The second national convention of the Turners

pledged every member to oppose the further extension

of slave territory. The introduction of the Kansas-Ne-

braska Bill in 1854 marked the beginning of the mighty

exodus of German voters from the Democratic party,

and in the next half dozen years, the German element

became an influential part of the new Republican party,

and its importance to the new organization was repeat-


1 The Cleveland Plain Dealer of June 25, 1856, referred to the "hair-

lipped Germans," and "Red Republicans."

408 Ohio Arch

408      Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications

edly attested by the recognition it received from the

party managers, from Lincoln down.2

The Civil War record of the German element is well

known. The enlistments from this population group

far exceeded the expected quota. Many of the Germans

had received extensive military training in the service

of the old fatherland. In their new home, they had

maintained their interest and efficiency in military mat-

ters by organizing numerous German military com-

panies, some of which were affiliated with the state mi-

litia. In Cincinnati, for example, there were the Ger-

man "Jackson Guards", "the Lafayette Guards", some

sharp-shooter militia companies, and a company of Ger-

man Jager. Columbus had a German artillery company

appropriately named the "Steuben Garde"; the San-

dusky Germans were proud of their Jager company, and

there was another in Fremont. The Turners main-

tained a semi-military discipline at all times, and were

of course in excellent physical condition. When Presi-

dent Lincoln issued his first call for volunteers, the Ger-

man Turners everywhere responded in great numbers.

Their decisive role in St. Louis, in the struggle to save

Missouri for the Union, is well known. In Ohio the

response was equally gratifying, although less dramatic

and spectacular. The Ninth Ohio Volunteers, who

claimed the distinction of being the first German regi-

ment in the West, were recruited practically to full

strength within twenty-four hours of the call for troops.

Mr. Lincoln, as the President-elect, had stopped in

Cincinnati in February, 1861, en route for Washington.


2 Mr. Lincoln, in 1859, bought a practically defunct German news-

paper of Springfield, Illinois, to further his candidacy for president.

The Ninth Ohio Volunteers 409

The Ninth Ohio Volunteers              409

In the parade which escorted him from the depot to the

city proper, the Steuben Artillery, the Lafayette Guards,

and the German Jager had places of honor. In the

evening, two thousand German workingmen presented

an address to Mr. Lincoln, at the Burnet House, and a

supper given by the young men of the city to Master

Robert Lincoln, was presided over by Mr. Fred Has-

saurek, a prominent member of the local German col-


The news of the firing on Fort Sumter, and of the

President's call for 75,000 volunteers, reached Cincin-

nati at a time when the Turner Hall, on Walnut Street,

the center of the social activities of the German element,

was crowded with excited citizens, eager for news from

the South. Mr. Gustav Tafel, the Sprecher, or presid-

ing officer of the Cincinnati Turnvereine, at once pre-

sented a blank form to be signed by those willing to

volunteer for service in the war which now seemed in-

evitable. It was Mr. Robert Latimer McCook, a mem-

ber of the famous family of "Fighting McCooks", and

the law partner of Judge Johann Bernhard Stallo, one

of the most respected leaders of the German element

in the United States, who seems to have initiated the

proposal to raise an exclusively German regiment in Cin-

cinnati.3  Mr. McCook had recently returned from        a

tour of Europe, and he was filled with enthusiasm for

the Prussian military system. After a conference be-


3 Judge Stallo was born in Oldenburg, 1823, and came to Cincinnati

in 1839. He was a teacher and scholar of considerable reputation, and

made notable contributions in the field of philosophy and mathematics.

He also studied law, and served as Common Pleas Judge in Hamilton

County. In the first Cleveland administration, he was appointed minister

to Italy, and after the expiration of his term, he continued to live in

Florence. In 1872, like so many other German leaders, he had been active

in the Liberal Republican Revolt against President Grant.

410 Ohio Arch

410      Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications

tween McCook and Tafel, the latter issued a summons

for a mass meeting of German-Americans, to be ad-

dressed by Judge Stallo, on the question of forming a

German regiment. All Turners, and members of Ger-

man militia companies, were especially urged to attend.4

On April 17, the Turner Hall was crowded to the doors,

and the audience listened to a stirring patriotic address

by Judge Stallo. Mr. Tafel then directed special atten-

tion to the extraordinary qualifications of Mr. McCook

for the work proposed, and to the latter's influence with

the governments at Washington and Columbus, a fact

which would probably help to get prompt government

support for the plans for a German regiment. The only

speaker at the meeting who doubted the feasibility of

the scheme was General August Moor, a veteran of the

Mexican War, whom many wanted to assume command

of the proposed regiment. Cincinnati had sent three

German companies into the Mexican War.5

The meeting at the Turner Hall resulted in the crea-

tion of a committee of twenty, to raise funds necessary

for the initiation of the plan for a full German regiment,

and eight public places, including the Turner Hall, the

hall of the Lafayette Guards, Weygand's brewery, and

Schiller's Garden, were designated as enlistment sta-

tions. By the evening of April 18, the muster roll of

the new regiment was filled, and many had to be rejected

because the size of companies was limited to 98 men.

A telegram was sent at once to Mr. Karl Joseph, a for-

mer instructor of the Turners, urging him to return


4 Mr. Gustav Tafel was city editor of the Cincinnati Volksblatt,

studied law in the office of Stallo and McCook, and after the war, served

as a member of the Ohio Legislature.

5 August Moor began his military service as a lieutenant of dragoons

in the Seminole War in Florida.

The Ninth Ohio Volunteers 411

The Ninth Ohio Volunteers             411

from Indianapolis and take command of the first Turner

companies. August Willich, another of the Turner

leaders, came from Indiana to organize four German

companies at the German Workingmen's Hall. Wil-

lich, an ex-officer of the Prussian army, who had turned

revolutionist in 1848, had come to the United States in

1853.6 The Jager and Lafayette companies were added

to these groups, and thus the Ninth Ohio Volunteer In-

fantry was formed. Every company was commanded

by Germans who had received their military training in

Germany. The list of captains, during the course of the

war, included Karl Joseph, Ferdinand Muller, Henry

Broderson, Friedrich Schroder, Ferdinand Benz, Gus-

tav Kammerling, Gustav Richter, Jacob Gluchowski,

John Gansen, Theodor Lammers, Wilhelm C. Marge-

dant, and George Sommer. Of the 1014 Germans in the

regiment, over 300 were Turners.

The Turner companies paraded through the streets

in their white Turner uniforms, and the regiment be-

gan to drill in the field behind the Turner Hall. When

this became too small, a drill ground was established in

the neighborhood of the present Cincinnati Music Hall.

Turners from Butler County, and from the neighboring

Kentucky towns of Covington and Newport joined their

Cincinnati brethren and were enrolled in the regiment.

The first regimental parade was held on April 21, led by

the Turner band, under the direction of Gunther Seiden-


6 Willich was born in Braunsberg, Posen, Germany, and at the

age of eighteen, was a second lieutenant in the Prussian artillery. After

the revolution of 1848, he lived in Switzerland and London. In London,

he became a member of the "Red International." He began his career

in America as the editor of a Cincinnati German Labor paper. In the

Civil War, he rose to the rank of Brigadier-general. In 1870, he re-

turned to Berlin to offer his services in the Franco-German War to the

fatherland from which he had fled as an exile.

412 Ohio Arch

412      Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications

sticker. Two days later, the company officers elected

their regimental officers.  McCook received six votes

for Colonel, Willich received four. Whatever friction

this division may have indicated, soon disappeared. The

list of regimental officers follows:

Colonel -- Robert L. McCook.

Lieutenant Colonel -- Karl Sondershoff.

Major -- Frank Link.

The Ninth Ohio Volunteers 413

The Ninth Ohio Volunteers              413

Regimental Surgeon -- Dr. Charles Krause.

Assistant Regimental Surgeon -- Dr. Rudolph


Adjutant -- August Willich.

Quartermaster -- Joseph Graff.

Adjutant Willich became the real drillmaster of the

organization. He not only taught the Prussian system

of tactics and drill, but also commanded in the German

language. Dr. Krause had been appointed as regimental

doctor because there had been loud complaints against

an earlier appointee who was not a German.8 On April

24, the regiment was transferred to the old Trotting

Park between Spring Grove and Carthage, and here the

soldiers constructed the frame shacks known as Camp

Harrison. There was vigorous criticism because of in-

adequate supplies, poor equipment, and the failure to

provide proper shelter, blankets, shoes, and dry straw.

The volunteers were compelled to lie down and sleep in

the water and mud of the drill ground, which had been

rented by the state for $20 an acre. Needless to add,

there were ugly charges of corruption and graft.9 But

in spite of hardships and disillusionments, the regiment

was ready for inspection by April 26, and on that day

it was mustered in, with 1035 men, for three months'

service, by Captain G. Granger, U. S. A. In addition,

the regiment boasted of a band of twenty-four German


7 Dr. Wirth was later transferred to the First Ohio Cavalry. After

the war, he settled in Columbus, and soon established himself in the life

of the city as a capable physician and public-spirited citizen.

8 See Der Westbote (Columbus, Ohio) May 9, 1861. Indeed, as time

went on, there was considerable complaint in the German press of Ohio

generally, that the Germans did not get a proportionate share of commis-

sions, especially in the medical service. See an editorial in Der Westbote,

May 30, 1861.

9 Cincinnati Volksblatt, quoted in Der Westbote, May 9, 1861. Also,

Der Westbote, May 16, 1861.

414 Ohio Arch

414      Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications

musicians.   On May 16, the men were equipped with

rifles, and two days later, the regiment entered Camp

Dennison, between Milford and Miamisburg, where

General Rosecrans was forming a brigade for service

with McClellan in Virginia.

At this juncture came Governor Dennison's appeal

to all volunteers to extend their period of enlistment

from three months to three years, with the promise of a

state bounty of $100 for each man, payable at the time

of his discharge. Largely due to Willich's persuasive

powers, the great majority of the Ninth Ohio responded

enthusiastically to the Governor's appeal, and on May

27, the men were sworn in for three years' service by

Colonel Robert Anderson, the hero of Fort Sumter.

Colonel Anderson read the oath in English, and Judge

Stallo repeated it in German. In a new regimental elec-

tion, held June 11, Willich was advanced from Adjutant

to Major. Several weeks before his promotion, his men

had presented him with a sword, and the regiment had

received a beautiful blue silk flag, with an inscription in

German, "For the first German Regiment of Cincin-

nati.10 The ceremonies on this happy occasion included

a dress parade. It was followed by an adjournment,

en masse, to a Milford Rathskeller, where amid German

songs, speeches and drinks, the festivities were brought

to a fitting close.11 On June 2, the regiment received an

extra large bass drum, presented by a Columbus woman

to the first Ohio regiment to enlist for three years. The

Germans had won this distinction.


10 The other side of the banner bore the words, Kampfet brav fur

Freiheit und Recht (Fight bravely for freedom and justice).

11 Willich was later transferred to Indiana, where he organized and

became Colonel of the 32nd Indiana Regiment, a German outfit entirely.

The Ninth Ohio Volunteers 415

The Ninth Ohio Volunteers           415

The Ninth Ohio Volunteers left for the West Vir-

ginia campaign on June 16, 1861, after a great farewell

demonstration accorded them by many representative

Cincinnati Germans. As the train rolled out for the

battle-front, the famous German soldiers' song, Mor-

genroth, seemed to spring spontaneously from a thou-

sand throats. Throughout the war, the folk music and

the martial strains of the old Fatherland were often

heard in the bivouacs of this and other German regi-


It is impossible here to follow the experiences of the

Ninth Ohio Volunteers through their three years of

service. The regiment saw hard fighting, and earned

the names, "Bloody Dutch", and "Dutch Devils", be-

stowed upon them by their rebel adversaries. Among

the more important battles in which the regiment par-

ticipated were Rich Mountain, West Virginia, July 10,

1861, where the men received their baptism of fire;

Carnifax Ferry, West Virginia, September 10, 1861;

Mill Springs, Kentucky, January 19, 1862, where the

bayonet charge of the Germans was decisive; Perryville,

Kentucky, October 8, 1862; Hoover's Gap, Tennessee,

June 26, 1863; Chickamauga, September 19 and 20,

1863; Missionary Ridge, November 25, 1863; and Buz-

zard's Roost, Georgia, February 25, 1864. At Chicka-

mauga, the regiment lost in dead, wounded and missing,

51% of its effective strength at the time. Colonel Kam-

merling, who had succeeded to the command of the regi-


12 There were many famous German outfits in the Northern Army.

Among the better known may be listed the 24th and 82nd Illinois, the 20th

New York, the 12th Missouri, the 74th Pennsylvania, and the 32nd In-

diana. A New York publisher found it profitable to issue a special War

Song Collection for German-American soldiers. The collection contained

the most popular German and American songs of the period.

416 Ohio Arch

416       Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications

ment after the tragic murder of Colonel McCook by

guerrillas in Tennessee, was promoted after this battle

to the rank of brigadier-general. Once only during these

three years of service were the men permitted to visit

their homes, and when they came, in November, 1861,

there was joy and festal merriment in Cincinnati, "over

the Rhine". When the time came for the discharge of

the regiment, it was still within range of the enemy's

guns, and General "Pap" Thomas personally rode out

to relieve the men from    the outer picket line, and to

order them back to Cincinnati.

The regiment reached Cincinnati on May 27, 1864,

and was mustered out early in June, at Camp Dennison.

The German element of the city gave the veterans a

rousing reception. At the wharf, they were greeted by

their fellow Turners who were in the city, and were

escorted by them to the Turner Hall, where a typical

German    evening, consisting of     a  banquet, songs,

speeches and dancing celebrated the happy return.

After the formal mustering out of the regiment, the

Cincinnati Germans tendered their heroes a second ban-

quet. Judge Stallo, who had made the principal address

at the time of the formation of the regiment in 1861,

now presided over the festivities which marked the for-

mal return of his fellow countrymen to civil life. But

less than half of the original regiment were left to enjoy

the honor.13


13 The following references have been useful in the preparation of

this paper, Die Neuner: Eine Schilderung der Kriegsjahre des eten

Regiments Ohio Voluntar Infanterie (Cincinnati, 1897); J. R. Rosen-

garten, The German Soldier in the Wars of the United States. Phila-

delphia 1886) ; Official Roster of the Soldiers of the State of Ohio in the

War of the Rebellion, 1861-66 (Cincinnati, 1886), Vol. II, pp. 263-291;

War of the Rebellion -- Official Records of the Union and Confederate

Armies (Washington, 1901); Whitelaw Reid, Ohio in the War (New

The Ninth Ohio Volunteers 417

The Ninth Ohio Volunteers                     417

York, 1868, Vol. II, pp. 7, 70-71; M. B. Learned, "The German-Ameri-

can Turner Lyric," in 10th Annual Report of the Society for the History of

the Germans in Maryland (Baltimore, 1896), pp. 79-134; Robert Wild,

"Chapters in the History of the Turners," in Wisconsin Magazine of His-

tory, December 1925, pp. 123-139; A. B. Faust, The German Element in

the United States (Boston, 1909), Vol. II, pp. 387-394; History of Cin-

cinnati and Hamilton County, Ohio: Their Past and Present, (Cincinnati,

1894) ; Charles T. Greve, Centennial History of Cincinnati and Representa-

tive Citizens (Chicago, 1904), Vol. I, pp. 814-816; H. A. Ford and K. B.

Ford, History of Hamilton County, Ohio (Cleveland, 1881), pp. 99-103;

Charles F. Goss, Cincinnati, the Queen City, 1788-1912 (Cincinnati, 1912),

Vol. I, p. 208; William F. Kamman, Socialism in German-American

Literature, (Philadelphia, 1917); files of Der Westbote (Columbus Ohio)

for April, May, June, July, 1861.

Vol. XXXV--27.