Short Bios | August Willich

Brigadier General August Willich
By Michael A. Peake

August Willich began his military career in 1822 entering Potsdam Military Academy as a twelve-year old orphaned cadet. He graduated in 1828 as a second lieutenant and later served as captain in the elite 7th Royal Artillery Brigade, where he gained valuable professional military command level experience until he resigned in 1847 to become one of the major commanders in the struggle for ‘Unity, Justice and Freedom’ during the German Revolution of 1848. With the collapse of the revolution his men were the last to leave Germany on July 11, 1849.

Willich fled to Besançon, France, then Switzerland and eventually crossed the Channel to England. In the final days of 1852, Willich booked passage aboard the Ocean Queen bound for the United States. Port authorities registered his arrival at New York on February 19, 1853, noting his proclamation of occupation as “citizen.” By 1858, he settled in Cincinnati, Ohio, becoming editor of a struggling German socialist newspaper, Der Cincinnati Republikaner. With the firing on Fort Sumter in April 1861, Willich organized four companies for the 9th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment, and was quickly elected adjutant and given sole responsibility for the training of the regiment.

In August 1861 Governor Morton of Indiana offered Willich a commission to organize the 32nd Indiana, modeled after Ohio’s highly successful First German Regiment. Willich led the 32nd Indiana until his promotion to brigadier general in August 1862. During his career he led troops through bloody battles from Shiloh to near Atlanta, endured confinement at Libby Prison after being captured at Stones River, sustained two wounds and was one of those commanders so endeared to his men that they warmly referred to him as “Papa.” After a visit to Germany in 1871, “Papa Willich” lived out his life in St. Mary’s, Ohio, where he died January 23, 1878.

Portrait taken at Porter's Gallery, 106 Fourth St., Cincinnati, Ohio.

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Brigadier General August Willich
Library of Congress: LC-USZ62-129658