Biography of August Ludwig Selig

There was no question as to the patriotism of German-Americans in the Civil war, which, after all, is the only real test to which they have been put on the soil of the republic. Whether as officers or in the ranks, they were sturdy and faithful, and never turned their backs as long as there were foes before them. Young and old, in the loyal states, rallied around the Union flag and upheld it in many of the bloodiest battles of the war. There is no more striking example of that spirit in the West than that presented by the Seligs of Lawrence, father and son; the former well advanced in middle life before he joined the Union ranks and the latter a “veteran” of the war before he was nineteen years of age. The father gave his life for the cause; the son, four full years of his boyhood and youth. Then the youth returned to the ways of industry and peace, and had since fought the battle of life with the same steadfast and loyal spirit which he showed in the dreary march and under the scathing fire of the enemy.

The father, Henry William Herman Selig, who came to Kansas in 1858, and first located in Leavenworth, was born in the City of Nienburg, Kingdom of Hanover, now incorporated into the German Empire. There he grew to man’s estate, received an excellent practical education, and learned the brick mason’s and plasterer’s trade. In the pursuit of his avocation he went to the free City of Hamburg, where he married Charlotte Elise Mackenthum, whom he had met prior to the great fire which raged in that city in the early ’40s, and who had been rendered homeless by that catastrophe. He then moved to Schleswig-Holstein, then a Danish duchy, and in the Village of Palhude, on the River Eider, he became manager of a large manufactory of brick and tile. His wife died there, after having borne him the following five children: Bertha Henrietta Catharina, August Ludwig, Carl Herman Johannus, Wilhelmina Greta and Heinrich Wilhelman Hermann. The last was named after his father and died in infancy. The father afterward married Wiebke Christine Dahl, and she bore him a daughter, Henrietta.

Commercial conditions not being satisfactory to Mr. Selig, he determined to establish a home in America. With his oldest son, August Ludwig, he therefore crossed the ocean on the screw propeller Harmonia, and after a voyage of fourteen days landed at old Castle Garden, New York. Having heard of Kansas, he determined to investigate conditions in that territory, and first examined the prospects at the busy and virile City of Leavenworth. He then visited Lawrence, the more quiet and refined atmosphere of which strongly appealed to him. There he began working at his trade, and in the spring of 1859 his wife and other children joined him.

In November following the breaking out of hostilities between the North and South, the father enlisted in Company F, Second Kansas Cavalry, his son August, then but fifteen years of age, having already joined an Illinois regiment of infantry. The man of the family had enjoyed a military training in the old country, and was therefore a competent soldier when he entered the Union service. But though willing and eager to do his soldierly part, his military service for his adopted country was to be of short duration; for he was badly wounded in the engagement at Poison Springs, Arkansas, and was sent forward to the Confederate prison at Fort Tyler, Texas, but being unable to march was shot to death by his captors in May, 1864. The deceased had made application for his naturalization papers, but sacrificed his life for a united country before he was legally a citizen.

After the war, Mrs. Selig moved to Illinois, and in later years to Colorado and still later to near Cheyenne, Wyoming, where she operated what was known as the Eleven-Mile Ranch. There she lost her property by fire, after which she went to the Territory of Washington (as it was then), where she died.

August Ludwig Selig was born in the free city of Hamburg, Germany, on the 6th of August, 1846, and resided with his parents until he came to the United States with his father in 1858. His primary education was obtained in the schools of the fatherland. In the fall of 1859 he left Lawrence and, walking to Leavenworth, worked his passage down the Missouri River to St. Louis. Later, he became a farm hand in Illinois, and arrangements were made by which he should work summers and go to school winters. But with the outbreak of the Civil war these plans were all changed; for in September, 1861, when he had just entered his sixteenth year he enlisted in Company E, Forty-ninth Illinois Volunteer Infantry. Probably because of his stalwart and rather mature appearance, the authorities did not inquire as to his age, and on October 10, 1861, he was mustered into the service. His first engagement was at Fort Donelson, followed by the battle of Shiloh, the siege of Corinth, guard duty on the Mobile & Ohio Railroad, and as participant in the expedition sent from Memphis down the Mississippi River to Helena, Arkansas. The transport boat on which he took passage in the river trip was sunk in a collision, but no casualties ensued. The youth then accompanied his regiment to reinforce General Steele’s command about to invest Little Rock, and participated in the capture of that city. Ordered back to Memphis, he was there employed in guarding trains on the Memphis & Charleston Railroad, and for a time, notwithstanding his youth, he had charge of a squad of men who were guarding the headquarters of General Webster, superintendent of military railroads. His next move was to Vicksburg, where he joined Sherman’s command in the second capture of Jackson, Mississippi; afterward went to Meridian and returned to Vicksburg, where he became a part of the Sixteenth Army Corps, under Gen. A. J. Smith, which had been sent to reinforce General Banks in the Red River expedition. He joined Banks at Alexandria, the corps with which he was operating having captured Fort DeRuessy on the way. From Alexandria to Pleasant Hill, Louisiana, he was a part of Banks’ rear guard. Arriving at the latter place on April 7, 1864, he participated in the battle of Pleasant Hill, and then returned to Alexandria to perform guard duty in protection of those engaged in the construction of Colonel Bailey’s famous dam across the Red River at that point. In the march to the Mississippi River he was continued in such service and was engaged in continuous skirmishing for eighteen days. He returned with his regiment to Memphis, he having re-enlisted and at this time took a veteran’s furlough to visit his people at Lawrence. He then rejoined his command at Memphis; afterward went to Holly Springs, Mississippi, and the Tallahatchie River. Then, with the regiment, returned to Memphis, and thence to Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, being ordered to the last named place to checkmate Price’s threatened raid on St. Louis. The force of which he was a unit chased the Confederate raider to the Kansas border and on the way prevented the capture of Jefferson City, Missouri. Mr. Selig’s next move in this lively and wearing game of war was to St. Louis, where the Union troops took transports down the Mississippi and up the Ohio and Cumberland rivers to Nashville, Tennessee, arriving there the night after the battle of Franklin, and checked Confederate General Hood’s advance on Nashville; two weeks later he participated in the two days’ battle of Nashville, under General Thomas, which resulted in the defeat of the Confederate leader and the demoralization of his army. With his comrades he was afterward sent to Paducah, Kentucky, to relieve a New York regiment, and there performed garrison duty until the war closed, receiving his final discharge, at Camp Butler, Springfield, Illinois, on September 9, 1865.

At the close of the war, when Mr. Selig returned to Lawrence, he was only nineteen years of age, but a man in physical hardihood and experience. He promptly showed his pluck and common sense by learning a trade–the tinner’s–which he followed for about nine years. In the meantime he married and otherwise extended the circle of his acquaintances and friends. The people whom he met in the course of his trade and social life had instinctive confidence in him, and his embarkation in 1874 in the insurance business proved a wise and profitable change. That decision and action occurred over forty-two years ago, and his business in that line had grown so steadily that for this long period he had derived a comfortable income from it. Its scope had also been increased by his handling of bonds.

Mr. Selig’s popularity and worth have been also recognized by numerous public honors. He had been a steadfast republican since he cast his first vote when in the army, at the age of sixteen. He first became a member of the city council of Lawrence, and was four times elected mayor, serving in that capacity eight years. In Masonry he had advanced through the several degrees, having been master of his lodge, high priest of his chapter and eminent commander of his commandery. There is no one who had a firmer footing in the city and county than August L. Selig.

Mr. Selig was married February 1, 1868, to Mary Frances Park, and they are the parents of five sons: Louis F., John E., Ernest T., Harry G. and George A., all of whom are married and living in various sections of the United States. The Seligs have been members of the Lutheran Church for many generations, and are active workers therein.


Connelley, William E. A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans. Chicago : Lewis, 1918. 5v. Biographies can be accessed from this page: Kansas and Kansans Biographies.

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