August Willich

Mark Lause lause at
Sun Mar 18 13:08:13 MST 2001

The best general source is still probably Lloyd Easton's book on _Hegel's first
American followers; the Ohio Hegelians: John B. Stallo, Peter Kaufmann, Moncure
Conway, and August Willich, with key writings._ (Athens OH 1966).

One of the disputes between Willich and Marx in the Communist League was not just
that dispute over when to stop fighting after 1848-49.  Willich had abandoned the
kind of stage-ist approach Marx still retained about anticipating a bourgeois
revolution.  Willich was ready to go right towards an independent workers'

Based on his reputation as a convicted Communist from the Cologne Trials, the
Cincinnati Republican Party brought him here to edit the _Cincinnati Republikaner_,
the party's German language organ.  He ran that paper from January 1858 into March
1861.  His work helped build an increasingly multiracial movement here in the city.
Among the more prominent of his associates here was Peter Humphries Clark, a black
printer and schoolteacher who had strong socialist connections.  Germans, blacks and
white Americans responded with a spontaneous torchlight parade when John Brown was
hanged.  When the Civil War came, Willich raised much of the Ninth Ohio from the
Workingmen's Hall in the city.  He went on to raise and command the Thirty-second
Indiana (which included some English-speaking socialists).

Willich addressed his soldiers as "Citizens," declaring that the highest rank.  He
regularly brought in speakers and agitators from Cincinnati down to his regiment
(later his brigade and division) for lectures and debates.  Those who fought under
him responded with exceptional loyalty and he could get his men to do all sorts of
astonishing things on a battlefield.  Lew Wallace (the author of _Ben Hur_) watched
in amazement at Shiloh when Willich's regiment advanced across an open field against
a much larger force of Confederates attempting to withdraw from the battle.  Willich
decided that their firing was getting a bit wild because the circumstances were
rattling their nerves.  He stopped them and put them through the manual of arms
right there, while under heavy fire.  When he decided they had control of themselves
and their firing, he had them advance on the woods, pushing the rebels back.  Lew
Wallace described it as one of the most amazing things he had seen in the war.

Willich was badly wounded several times and, at Stone's River was captured and sent
to Libby Prison.  Upon being exchanged, he was summoned to Washington for a private
interview with Lincoln (the subject of which was never stated).

I do have a nice engraving of him from the history of the Grand Army of the
Republic--he was very active immediately after the war in putting together veteran's

In Solidarity,
Mark L.

More information about the Marxism mailing list