Great German-Americans in History: Carl Shurz


In 1848, student revolutionary Carl Shurz, age 19, broke his politically-jailed professor out of Berlin’s Spandau prison with a scheme that relied on bribes and disguises. That level of awesomeness can’t be contained by continental Europe, and so Shurz would emigrate to the United States, where he became a confidant of Abraham Lincoln’s and a key campaign aide, attracting German-American voters to the Republican party. When the Civil War broke out, he went to the White House to ask for a military commission. We turn to the notes of Lincoln’s secretary, John Hay:

April 26: Carl Schurz was here today. He spoke with wild enthusiasm of his desire to mingle in the war. He has great confidence in his military prowess, and his capability of arousing the enthusiasm of the young. He contemplates the career of a great guerilla chief with ardent longing.

April 27: … Through the luxuriant grounds the gaily dressed crowd idly strolled, soldiers loafed in the promenade, the martial music filled the sweet air with vague suggestions of heroism, and Carl Schurz and the President talked war.

April 28: Carl Schurz … will make a wonderful land pirate, bold, quick brilliant and reckless. He will be hard to control and difficult to direct. Still, we shall see. He is a wonderful man.

Mingle in the war! Land pirate!

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