Brother against Brother at the Civil War Battle of Bull Run
by Pastor Dan White
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On April 28, 1852, Frederick and Wiegand Schlein emigrated from Germany to the United States. They were two of a million German immigrants known as the 48ers named after the failed Germanic revolutions of 1848. These revolutions had sought individual liberties inspired by our Declaration of Independence and the individual freedoms "endowed to us by our Creator" granted in the United States Constitution's Bill of Rights.
The brothers like most of the 48ers came to America with skills enabling them to be self-supportive in their new country. Both men were educated, knew English, were shoe-makers, and Fritz was also a podiatrist.
But, they were plunged into a country on the verge of civil war.
The brothers separated in 1854 with Fritz moving to Union Point, Georgia, in Greene County, and Wiegand moving to New Haven, Connecticut.
Three days after the Confederate capture of Ft. Sumter, President Abraham Lincoln issued a call to arms to put down the Southern Rebellion on April 15, 1861.
Wiegand enlisted in the 3rd Connecticut Infantry. Fritz enlisted in the Stephens Light Guard which became part of the Georgia 8th Army.
On July 21, 1861, they fought against one another at the Battle of Bull Run at Manassas, Virginia.
Fritz under the command of General Joe Johnston had been encamped at Winchester, Virginia, to counter General Robert Patterson's position in the Shenadoah Valley. On July 18, Johnston received orders to advance 70 miles east to Manassas Junction. On Saturday, July 20 in the afternoon, Fritz arrived at Manassas. He and his fellow Georgians immediately took up defensive positions under General Pierre Beauregard's directions.
Wiegand's 3rd Connecticut arrived at the scene of battle before dawn on July 21 after an 8 mile march from Centreville.
The morning sun peeped above the eastern horizon illuminating two massive armies poised for battle. 68,000 men waited for the command to commence firing.
At 6:30AM, General Daniel Tyler ordered a canon to fire. That blast began the battle and signaled that his Connecticut brigade was in place.
All that stood in the path of the 20,000 Union soldiers converging on the Confederate left flank was Colonel Nathan "Shanks" Evans and his reduced brigade of 1,100 men on Matthew's Hill. The Confederate generals had miscalculated where the major Union attack would occur and had the bulk of their armies in another position.
But, Evans was soon joined by General Barnard Bee's brigade and Colonel Francis Bartow's brigade, which included Fritz' Georgia 8th army. Bee and Bartow had moved into their reinforcement positions because Beauregard's signal officer, standing on a hill eight miles away, waved signal flags that warned, "Watch out for your left." That move added 2800 more Confederates to Evans' men. Fritz Schlein was now in the fight of his life on Matthew's Hill.
Evans's line collapsed around 10:30AM as more Federals were added to the fight. Fritz and the Confederates then quickly ran for their lives in total chaos. They retreated east across Young's Branch. (This branch was a tributary of Bull Run Creek and its indention formed Matthew's Hill to the northeast opposite Henry Hill to the southwest). They then crossed the Warrenton Turnpike and made it to the Robinson house on Henry Hill opposite of Matthew's Hill which offered a better defensive position. Federal artillery batteries from Matthews Hill pounded them in their panicked retreat.
Wiegand and his fellow Connecticuts held their position just north of Stone Bridge with the 1st and 2nd Connecticut further back. They watched the scene unfold before their eyes. One can only imagine what they thought, but they didn't have time to think long.
At 11AM as the Confederates retreated, McDowell ordered only Keyes' 3rd Connecticut to leave their position near the Stone Bridge and take position on Matthew's Hill. The 1st and 2nd Connecticut were left in their position near the bridge.
Wiegand and the 3rd Connecticut followed Colonel William T. Sherman's troops who had forded Bull Run several hundred yards north of the Stone Bridge and joined the victors on Matthews Hill.
With the Confederates in full retreat, the Yankees thought that they had won the battle. Shouts of victory went up from Matthews Hill and spread like a wild fire up and down the Federal line until all of the Federals were shouting as one. It was a spine-chilling moment for them thinking the battle won.
But, instead of ordering his infantry to pursue the fleeing Confederates, McDowell chose to bombard Henry Hill with his canons. This delay gave the Confederates two and a half precious hours to get it back together.
McDowell had made a big mistake because the Georgia regiments and other Confederate regiments fleeing Matthews Hill across Young's Creek and over to Henry Hill were hopelessly shattered and in disarray. President Lincoln fired
McDowell several days after the battle primarily for his failure to immediately follow up the Union victory on Matthew's Hill.
McDowell's delay allowed Confederate Generals Johnston and Beauregard and Colonel Thomas Jackson to gallop on their horses from their position where they thought the Union army would attack. They got to the Henry house on Henry Hill which was southwest of the Robinson House around noon time with their soldiers and immediately set about to reorganize the unnerved and confused Georgians gathered around the Robinson House on Henry Hill.
Moreover, the just arrived 2600 troops that General Johnston had to leave behind at Piedmont Station were added to the reinforcements.
Jackson got hit in the hand. He wrapped his wound in a handkerchief, and kept up the fight. In a rousing effort to put the fighting courage back into his Georgians, General Bee, shouted above the guns and explosions, "Look men, there's Jackson standing like a stone wall! Rally behind the Virginians!" From then on, Jackson would be known as "Stonewall" Jackson and become a southern legend.
And rally, they did! The inspired Georgians and the other devastated fragments regrouped and reformed their lines along with thousands of reinforcements. The battle wasn't over by a long shot.
Further, Colonel Wade Hampton and his South Carolinians arrived near the Robinson House on Henry Hill where the Georgia fragments left over from the Matthew's Hill fight were regrouping.
Quickly, Hampton took charge and organized a strong defensive position in expectation of another Federal charge.
Back on Matthew's Hill, McDowell wanted to end the battle once and for all. At one o'clock, he ordered Colonel Erasmas Keyes and his rested Connecticut 3rd army and other regiments to attack and destroy Hampton's Legion. Wiegand was now in the battle.
The 3rd Connecticut rushed into position but were met with fierce, deadly fire from Hampton's men who were in a stout defensive position near the Robinson house.
Fritz aimed and fired at a Yankee soldier. Wiegand aimed and fired at a Rebel soldier. Fighting on opposite sides and near to one another, it was the closest the Schlein brothers had been to each other since their days together in Brooklyn seven years ago.
The ferocious fight soon had the two sides in hand to hand combat. Men were falling everywhere. Painful, agonizing screams came from the soldiers who were hit by a Miniť ball, plunged through with a bayonet, or sliced with a sword. In the heat of the tumult, Fritz felt the searing pain from a Miniť ball tear through him. He fell to the ground, wounded, bleeding, and unable to fight any more.
Hampton's Legion and the fragments of the Georgia 8th army fought gallantly. The tide turned in their favor, and Keyes' brigade was forced to fall back until they were in a full sprint to escape with their lives.
Wigand's 3rd Connecticut fled in disarray and disorder back across the Stone Bridge escaping the hot pursuit from Hampton's men to the safety of the 1st and 2nd Connecticut regiments still guarding the approach to the bridge.
In the confused retreat, Wiegand and a few other Connecticuts got separated from the rest of the army. Hampton's men seemingly came out of nowhere to block their retreat. Every rifle was trained on the Connecticut soldiers ready to send them into eternity. Wiegand's fighting German instincts wanted to fight it out. But seeing the hopelessness of the situation, he realized that it was over. He dropped his rifle, raised his hands, and surrendered.
Fritz was lifted on to a crude stretcher and taken by wagon to the Pringle plantation house where other wounded soldiers were being treated by physicians and women volunteers from the town. Countless wounded Confederate soldiers jammed into the Pringle's plantation home which was reserved for the most seriously wounded. Others including Fritz lay helpless and bleeding on the grounds. Fritz had his wounds cleaned and dressed. Night fell and a steady rain drenched the Virginia country side.
In the meantime, Wiegand was marched to Manassas station joining a multitude of other Yankee prisoners under the watchful guard of Confederate soldiers. The next day, hungry, tired, and frustrated over his capture and the Union's defeat at the Battle of Bull Run, Wigand boarded the train filled with prisoners and wounded Confederates for Richmond.
In a few days, Fritz had recovered enough to board a train to a Richmond hospital for further treatment and rehabilitation.
The Confederates must have decided that they needed Fritz' shoe-making skills more than his rifle skills. He finished his enlistment making shoes at the Atlanta Shoe Factory which had been commandeered by the Confederate government taking it from the owner who was a Union sympathizer. The factory produced over 500 pairs of brogan shoes a day in an effort to keep the Southern army shod.
The war was over for Frederick (Fritz) Schlein, but it would last for four more bloody years with over 500,000 American deaths - more than all the wars combined in the history of the United States.
After Wiegand got off the train in Richmond, he was marched to the three story Libby tobacco warehouse that the Confederates had turned into an over crowded military prison. He was assigned to the second floor since no prisoners were allowed on the first floor.
It is most probable that Fritz found out that his brother was a prisoner and that he was able to visit with his younger brother before he left Richmond on a train bound for the Atlanta Shoe Factory.
But, the war was still not over for Wiegand. The Confederates decided to transfer 500 POW's on September 21st to New Orleans and in February, 1861 transferred to the Confederate prison in Salisbury, North Carolina.
In a prisoner of war exchange, Wiegand signed his parole on May 17, 1861, and returned to New Haven.
Wiegand immediately picked up where he had left off in advocating for the Republican Party. He established the Connecticut Republican, a German newspaper, in 1867.
Wiegand was a powerful clear, concise writer, and his paper became the leading German newspaper in Connecticut. He had important influence on the progress of the Republican Party as well as an important influence on the progress and prosperity of the German-Americans in Connecticut for almost a whole generation. He became well known as an intellectual and had outstanding executive abilities. He fought in the field of battle and in the field of words for American principles that he had so wanted for his native Germany which had been denied him because of the failed 1848 Germanic revolution.
In the meantime after the War, Fritz moved to Augusta, Georgia, where he too prospered as a shoe maker and doctor and became influential in the Augusta community. The late Wiegand Herman Schlein, Fritz' grandson told his wife, Ruth, before he died that Fritz' Christian faith prompted him to treat the poor and sick often without compensation. They came in droves waiting to see Dr. Schlein. They came with broken legs and broken feet and a host of other maladies. He tended to them out of a room in his house on Eve Street that he had set up as a clinic.
Herman also said that Fritz told family members that he and Wiegand did not know that they were fighting each other at the Battle of Bull Run.
In 1883, the two German brothers reunited for the last time on a much happier occasion than fighting against each other at Bull Run.
The two German brothers, Wiegand and Fritz, were reunited when Wiegand made the trip to Augusta for Fritz and Charlotte Wilhemina Schrimper's wedding.
Charlotte was a German 48er immigrant herself who came to America in 1852.
The wedding was held at the Lutheran Church on Walker Street. Rev. Theodore Koeberle officiated. The entire service was conducted in the German language.
On March 9, 1884, a baby boy was born to Fritz and Charlotte. Fritz named his first born son Wiegand in honor of his brother.
Fritz died on December 12, 1908, at age 74 and is buried at Westview Cemetery in Augusta. The Augusta Chronicle noted in his obituary that he was a loyal member of St. John's Methodist Church, kind hearted, and benevolent.
Wiegand preceded his older brother in death dying on December 31, 1900, at age 64 from the flu. He is buried at the Evergreen Cemetery in New Haven, Connecticut. And by the way, he named his first born son Frederick in honor of his beloved brother.
This story was written and posted for the occasion of the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Bull Run and for a memorial service at the gravesite of Frederick Schlein, Westview Cemetery, Augusta, Georgia, July 21, 2011, 5pm by the descendents of the Schlein brothers from Germany.
I have written the complete story of the Schlein Brothers. You can order this book directly from me. Send me an email for details on how you can acquire this book.
Rev. Dan White is a writer and pastor of North Columbia Church, Appling, GA. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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This is so fascnating. To think that every grave marker covers a life story just waiting to be opened! Thank you for digging to find and share the story of these brothers. I really appreciate it.
p.s. If you aren't writing a book, with all your mini-biographies, you should definitely consider doing so!