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Revolotion - The Year 1849
Events and Consequences

Something is happening in Baden.  During the fifth decade of the 19th century, poor harvests and the dangers of flooding alternated.  The farmers became poor.  After a long and cold winter, the clover and summer harvests suffered.  After a dry summer, there was little hope for hay and potatoes.  In 1848, Hecker offered his slogans across the country.  He announced wealth, education, and freedom for all.  His ideas found many followers among the rafters and pilots, and they discussed them in their local establishments.  Then, in 1849, soldiers mutinied in Rastatt.  The revolution had arrived, and it was accompanied by a lot of hope.  In Steinmauern, volunteers moved in.  They came from Switzerland and had a plan to organize young village men into military regiments.  They made captains of two of the most eager men in Steinmauern, Harlfinger and Kronewirt, and they exercised every day outside on fields and by the river.  This went on until June 29, 1849.

            Two witnesses report:  Karl Julius Späthe, Mathias Strumpf's son, barely eleven years old, was sent to gather hay.  With his rake and a sack, he stood and watched as artillery approached from Rastatt.  Horses pulled cannons, soldiers readied their guns.  The young boy ran back to his village and spread the news to soldiers and citizens who stood around talking.  It was a hot, June day, and it was no wonder that wineglasses were emptied rapidly.  On June 29th, Prussian troops entered the village.

Now the live shooting really began.  What went on that day was recalled for a long time by Nickolaus Hatz, who at the time was seventeen years old.  He retained these impressions as follows:  "That morning, we went out in threes at around 3 a. m.--it was still night and pitch dark--into the Kirschenbrechen area.  When we got to the woods near Elchesheim and Illingen, we saw that it was fairly crawling with Prussian soldiers.  I hurried back to the village to report it to Captain Harlfinger, who had been assigned there by the freedom fighters.  Occasionally, an enemy spy crept through the town's gardens.  I found Captains Harlfinger and Kronenwirt wearing knit tunics without any unit insignias such as the volunteers wore.  'But, yesterday, you were still wearing a captain's tunic and saber,' I stated, and added firmly, 'And now what's become of your enthusiasm for freedom all of a sudden?'  The captain was about to box my ears for this impertinence, but I ducked and ran off.  But then, when the Prussians came into the village, the captain of the freedom-fighters undoubtedly found it much more comfortable to greet the helmeted soldiers who arrived while wearing a peaceful housecoat rather than wearing a revolutionary captain's uniform! 

            The 9 o'clock church service was about to begin when the Prussians took our village, coming in from the north through the gardens, alleys, and fields.  When the church bells began ringing, word went out:  "No service today, the pastor is gone again."  But the freedom-fighters had pulled out the night before and had withdrawn to back beyond the Murg dam, breaking off toward the bridge at Hoffeld.  Then, a cannonade began spreading fear and terror.  With their long-range fllnt locks, the Swiss opened wild firing back upon the Prussians.

            Karl Julius Späth told us:  "In my neighbor's house, in the line of the street from Plittersdorf, twelve people found refuge in the cellar.  At mid-day, at about 11:30, a cannon shot crashed outside by the Murg.  A second crash in the area of my parents' house, where our family had just sat down together at lunch, told us, with booming ears, that it had landed in the area."

            A shell had hit the corner posts of the neighbor's house, knocked the doors in, and struck down the joists of the cellar under the anteroom, where the twelve trembling and crying people were kneeling on the floor and, as the best of their abilities, praying.  Schrapnel, lead balls, and acrid gunpowder smoke filled the stuffy room with the smell of sulphur, and it is no wonder that everyone had an ungodly fright, and that 18 year-old Maria Anna Lang was covering her exposed breast, around which hung strips of her bodice.  Because the cannonades were now getting ever worse, my father took the family and fled with us to Illingen the next day, where we could find safer lodging with relatives.  The freedom fighters delayed coming to the fortress in Rastatt.

            Cannon shots were reminders of this combat at Steinmauern, found shot into the stone walls and there to remain.  They were also found at the base of the parish house, in the window niches over the altar of the Blessed Virgin in the church, in the Schiff tavern, and in the house at Rheinstrasse 2.   In 1925, when Nickolaus Becker wanted to go after a piece of the money that had rolled out of the collection bag, he lifted up the floorboards of the choir loft, and there he found a gun with a flintlock and bayonet in the cavity.  It most certainly belonged to one of the freedom fighters that had fired upon the retreating Prussians from the church tower. 

            When the fortress in Rastatt capitulated, the revolutionaries held a bloody account.  None of the Steinmauern Franctieur (French soldiers serving as light infantry and scouts) were charged with anything and were not executed.  But the community had large expenses.  The housing and delivery of supplies to the Franctieur and the Prussians who followed were heavy burdens.  The total expenses ran about 5000 Gulden.  To cover these expenses, one hundred oak trees from the forest were cut in the vicinity of Hintere Reut. 

            Where the Murg flows into the Rhine, near the customs house, the Franctireur set the Seilremis up in flames.  This was the place where the Prussians took their wounded and sick to recover.  After the Rastatt capitulation on July 28, 1849, the Franctireur were seen in town again, but this time they were refugees who crossed the Rhine on a ferry boat to French shores.  In Münchhausen, they sold their weapons for cash to finance their trip and begged for bread and meat.  When Prussian officers received information of this, they rode to inspect the shores of the Rhine, and they searched the towns and all surrounding islands without success!

            Despite these sentry posts, there was someone, however, who was successful in his flight across the Rhine to France.  He reported it in his memoirs.  This man was Carl Schurz.

            A word of explanation about his memoirs:  the twenty year-old student from the Rhineland arrived with his professor, Kinkel, from Bonn, in the whirlpool of the revolution of 1848-49.  Kinkel was wounded and fell into the hands of the Prussians, and Schurz belonged to those revolutionaries who were held in the Rastatt fortress.  Because Schurz was a Prussian, he could not expect any mercy.  Therefore, he hid and thought of possibilities for escape.  It occurred to him that he had heard about an underground channel of sewers under the fortress that came from the urban district and could lead him to freedom. 

            While the rebelling soldiers from the fort marched to the gate to lay down their weapons, a strong shower of rain came down over Rastatt.  Schurz wanted to use this opportunity to slip into the sewer, where he planned to sit on a board and wait for nightfall, and then try to escape.  But the rain did not stop, and the waters started rising, threatening Schurz's life.  He returned to his hiding place in the town.  For three days, he hid in the roof of a garden shed.  Then he tried his luck at escaping again. 

            In his memoirs, he reports, "It was a clear moonlit night, and we stayed in the shadows of the hedges to ensure that we weren't seen.  This worked until we reached the mouth of the sewer....a watchman was marching up and down opposite the mouth, and when the man turned his back to walk in the opposite direction, we slipped into the sewer, one by one...we crawled through and soon found our old bench.  Then we found the wire mesh...climbed through and soon saw a light ahead of us...this showed us that the exit to the fields was ahead...a low whistle from our side was answered immediately...our man stepped out of the wheat.  He reported that the way forward was clear.  We walked along briskly and reached the village of Steinmauern in less than an hour.  Our friend led us down to the shore of the Rhine and showed us a boat, in which a man lay fast asleep.  He was awakened quickly, and our friend told him that we were the people who were to be taken across the Rhine.  'That will cost five Gulden,' replied the oarsman.'  He also told us that he was from Koblenz."

            I handed him the amount of money demanded and offered some more money to our worthy guide.  He said, "You've given me enough already.  What you have left, you will need yourselves.  My name is Augustin Loeffler.  God watch over you."  We refugees climbed into the boat; and our back turned toward Rastatt.  After a short journey by water, the boatman landed us on a thickly overgrown meadow.  As dawn broke, we headed off to find the nearest Alsatian village.  We soon discovered that we had landed on an island, and we found a small house approximately at the middle of the island, which seemed to be the house of a toll collector for the State of Baden.  The house was closed up tighter than a drum, and the island appeared devoid of humans.  As the sun rose, we saw two men across on the Alsatian shore, whom we recognized as Douaniers (French toll collectors).  We called across to them.  Without much pleading on our parts, one of the Douaniers, an honest Alsatian, climbed into a skiff and brought us over to Alsatian ground.  We surrendered our weapons and assured them that we had brought nothing taxable with us from Rastatt.  We had landed near a small village called Muenchhausen, and then we turned our steps toward the small city of Selz.

            Epilogue to the Memories of a Revolutionary of 1848/49:  Karl Schurz escaped from Alsace and journeyed on to Switzerland, and in the summer of 1850, he secretly entered Berlin.  There, in an adventurous way, he freed his Professor Kinkel from the Spandau prison.  In 1852, he emigrated to America, became a Senator in 1868, and served as U. S. Secretary of the Interior from 1877 until 1881.  He died on May 14, 1906 in New York. 

Now, back to the events in our hometown.  There, they began to list the damages caused by the Partisan episode.  Johann Becker, innkeeper and timber-trader, submitted a claim for damages to his rafting equipment caused by the fires of the war, the battles of the Prussian support troops, and also by the Partisans.  He had previously received 1,400 Gulden from the office of the General Staff Treasury for wood he regularly furnished to the support troops.  Therefore, they denied his claim and entered the remark:  "...he wants to take advantage of the situation, and therefore no further restitution will be made"...Principle teacher, Mai, reported a damage amount of 179 Gulden and 24 Kreuzer, claiming that the volunteer corps stole chattel and diverse equipment.

Quelle/Source: Heimatbuch Steinmauern, Heinz Bischof
published here with permission of Heinz Bischof



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