FRANZ SIGEL, Upper West Side

by Kevin Walsh

MAJOR General Franz Sigel (1824-1902) overlooks Riverside Drive at West 106th Street. Sigel, born in Baden, Germany, served in the German military until 1852, when he emigrated to the US, becoming a journalist. Joining the US Army at the outbreak of the Civil War, rising in the ranks, he helped suppress Missouri’s secession and went on to fight in Virginia and West Virginia. As a commander he was defeated by Gen. John C. Breckinridge at the Battle of New Market, Virginia in May 1864, a battle that is commemorated by the Virginia Military Institute to this day because 10 cadets were killed in the fight. After the war, Sigel went on to public relations and journalism in Baltimore and New York City.

Sigel’s statue was unveiled amid great fanfare in 1907. The sculpture, by Viennese Karl Bitter, was designed, like other statues on Riverside Drive, to be seen by passing boats in the Hudson. In the century to follow, though, lush vegetation has grown to obscure that view. The general is also remembered by Sigel Park in Concourse Village in the Bronx.

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John Dereszewski December 24, 2022 - 7:44 pm

I also believe the misspelled Seigel Street in Williamsburg is named after him.

George Gauthier December 24, 2022 - 11:20 pm

Sigel’s opponent, John C. Breckinridge, was the 14th and youngest-ever vice president of the United States taking office at age 36 during Buchanan’s administration from 1857 to 1861, Briefly in the US Senate until the outbreak of the American Civil War, then expelled after joining the Confederate Army and Confederate Secretary of War in 1865.

Peter December 25, 2022 - 8:55 pm

Unlike almost all other former Confederate officials, Breckinridge went into exile after the war, not returning to the US for three years.

chris December 25, 2022 - 1:37 am

He was defeated in battle so they made a statue of him?
I thought it was supposed to be the other way around

Andy December 25, 2022 - 2:52 pm

For nearly two miles between 89th and 124th Streets, Riverside Drive boasts an unusually large collection of statues, monuments, and by extension, historical venues. The Soldiers and Sailors Monument at 89th Street, profiled in FNY in 2008, commemorates Union servicemen who died in the Civil War . Joan of Arc graces 93rd Street, followed by the Firemen’s Memorial at 100th Street. Franz Sigel at 106th is followed by Samuel Tilden at 112th Street, and Louis Kossuth stands a block north at 113th Street. Tilden (1814-1886) was a New York state governor and unsuccessful 1876 Democratic Party presidential candidate who lost a controversial and disputed election. Kossuth (1802 – 1894) was a Hungarian statesman and well-known orator.

Grant’s Tomb, the granddaddy of Riverside Drive’s monuments, is at 123rd Street atop a grassy knoll where Riverside Drive briefly splits into two separate roadways. Grant (1822-1885) was a two term US President and before that, the victorious Civil War general. The tomb was completed in 1897 and replaced an earlier, temporary memorial erected in 1885 right after General Grant died.

Opposite Grant’s Tomb along the southbound (west) roadway is the now-forgotten Grave of the Amiable Child, a private burial site that memorializes a five year old boy, St. Claire Pollock. who died in 1797 when he accidentally fell onto rocks below the cliffs that overlook the Hudson River. A country house that once belonged to the Pollock family occupied the land just north of Grant’s Tomb between Riverside Drive’s roadways; the building later was a well-known restaurant and tavern for many years, until it was destroyed in a 1951 fire. A children’s playground replaced the old building.

Opposite Grant’s Tomb on the northbound (east) roadway is Riverside Church, a monumental structure completed in 1930; it is an interdenominational Protestant congregation originally founded by John D. Rockefeller.

In my early years I lived on West 104th Street just off Riverside Drive, and as a young adult I lived on West 95th Street, so I am familiar with these locations. It’s amazing that so much history is located in this short stretch of Riverside Drive.


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