A couple of month ago, I wrote about the Duchess of Polignac in my post “Was Marie Antoinette a Lesbian?” In “A World on Fire,” a book about Britain’s role in the American Civil, by Amanda Foreman, the Duchess of Polignac grandson pops up as a character. Prince Camille de Polignac was a Confederate General. That’s right, a French nobleman commanded a division in the Confederate Army and they were Texans. He was admired by his troops for his bravery and aristocratic dash. After the war, he returned to Europe. He was an officer in the Franco-Prussian War. He died in 1911, the last surviving General on either side.
August Willich was almost the exact ideological opposite of General de Polignac. General Willich was a Communist and a general in the Union Army. This minor Prussian aristocrat, a traitor to his class, fought in the Revolution of 1848. Friedrich Engels, the co-author of the Communist Manifesto, was his aide-de-Camp at the battle of Cologne. Karl Marx was an acquaintance. He escaped to America and became active in radical émigré politics. He too was popular with his troops, even providing them with fresh-baked bread. After the War he returned briefly to Germany. He wanted to fight in the Franco-Prussian War. The German General Staff rejected his offer both on the grounds of political belief and age.
For the last 150 years there has been much controversy about the role of ideology in the American Civil War. I don’t think this question will ever be answered. But it is hard to imagine a Communist fighting for the Confederate or the grandson of Marie Antoinette’s best friend and the son of an ultra-royalist prime minister commanding a Union division.
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