An ambitious German commander's views of military life and courtship in the Confederacy
Confederate colonel Frank Schaller lived a life of grand ambition, driven to attain rank, fortune, a good marriage, and some measure of redemption in the eyes of his German family. Edited by Mary W. Schaller and Martin N. Schaller, his correspondence from the 1860s follows his battlefield experiences, his machinations for advancement, and his courtship of Sophie Sosnowski of Columbia, South Carolina.
Schaller emigrated from Germany to the United States in 1855 and began the career as a military science instructor that would lead him to North Carolina and the Hillsborough Military Academy in 1861. His training in Germany and his combat experience with the French army in the Crimean War made him a candidate for quick advancement once the Civil War began. From the time of North Carolina's secession in 1861 until his being wounded at Shiloh in April 1862, Schaller advanced rapidly from lieutenant to colonel. But after Shiloh his consistent—and somewhat conspicuous—medical complaints kept him from combat while he worked to maintain his rank as regimental commander of the Twenty-second Mississippi Infantry and pursue marriage into a prominent family.
Though largely a peripheral figure in the great conflict, Schaller reveals much in his correspondence about military actions and the inner workings of the Confederate officer corps. The critical views of this disciplined European military commander on the quality and training of his American volunteer soldiers is particularly telling. He recounts his firsthand perspectives on the Battle of Shiloh, the retreat from Nashville, the Battle of Fredericksburg, and the defeat at Gettysburg. His letters to Sophie Sosnowski also detail the nature of courtship practices in the war-torn South.
The story is completed in the editors' epilogue as they chronicle Schaller's marriage to Sosnowski, resignation from the Confederate ranks, and relocation to Athens, Georgia, where he taught briefly and then resumed his odyssey until his death in 1881. Schaller's letters portray life and culture in the Confederacy as witnessed by an immigrant eager to find personal success and glory in America.
Mary W. Schaller is the author or editor of fifteen previous books and plays, including Papa Was a Boy in Gray: Memories of Confederate Veterans Related by Their Living Daughters.
A descendant of Frank Schaller, Martin N. Schaller is a retired U.S. Navy officer and technology executive. The Schallers live in Burke, Virginia.
"This well-annotated and admirably edited collection of Civil War correspondence from German immigrant Frank Schaller to his fiancé Sophie Sosnowski of Columbia, South Carolina, details their courtship and his service to the Confederacy-notably at Shiloh, Fredericksburg, and Gettysburg. Far from a heroic figure, Col. Schaller worked tirelessly for his own advancement and personal advantage. Like many officers from both sides, he preferred spending time away from his men and camp. His letters chronicle his frequent complaints of illness and injury, his low opinion of those under his command, and his high ambitions for promotion during the war and for a prosperous marriage afterwards. Schaller's self-serving maneuverings and candor provide a unique perspective into the lives and values of the C.S.A. officers corps and, as such, make for fascinating reading."—W. Eric Emerson, author of Sons of Privilege: The Charleston Light Dragoons in the Civil War