Officer’s Purge following the Battle of Freeman’s Ford


Following the Battle of Freeman’s Ford, and the Union defeat there, Schimmelfennig carried out a thorough purge of his brigade, ousting not only Lt. Col. Hamm and at least one other officer of the 74th, but also both commanders of the 61st Ohio and the 8th Virginia.  In addition, he purged a further 20 or so officers from those two regiments [ultimately even getting rid of the entire 8th Virginia and having it replaced by the mostly German 45th New York].  This event helps explain some of the unrest in the regiment that led to the future mutiny within the regiment, and to Schimmelfennig's absolutely unforgiving attitude toward Major Blessing about his inability to face down the mutineers [combined, perhaps, with a Prussian's traditional sneering attitude toward a south German].    


Schimmelfennig couldn't just dismiss Lt. Col. Hamm, however, but he could get rid of him in another fashion.  He sent Hamm off into exile on a permanent "recruiting" assignment in Pittsburgh.  Whenever Hamm seems to have failed to understand his situation, Major von Hartung would fire off a rather condescending letter reminding Hamm that he (von Hartung) was in command of the regiment and that Hamm had no authority with respect to the regiment by order of Schimmelfennig.  Hamm hung on until March 1863, even gaining the colonelcy, but apparently eventually realized that he would never be permitted to return to the regiment.  But even that treatment was better than what was aimed at Colonel Newton Schleich of the 61st Ohio, who was threatened with a court martial for desertion in the face of the enemy.  He was far less stubborn than Hamm. But Schimmelfennig and Lt. Col. Stephen McGroarty felt more action was needed in the 61st and they encouraged the resignation of another 13 officers and the regimental sergeant-major (seven of whom McGroarty suggested should be charged with desertion), and discharged one officer who was less willing to resign.  Schimmelfennig and McGroarty were close, but von Hartung was always Schimmelfennig's protege.  When Schimmelfennig demanded to be reassigned after Gettysburg, von Hartung took the 74th with him, but McGroarty chose to remain with the XIth Corps (with Carl Schurz -- another Schimmelfennig protege, although by then the roles had clearly reversed).