A couple days ago, I talked about the 11th Corps at Chancellorsville, when the mostly German troops were (literally) caught napping by Stonewall’s flank attack and routed. But not all of them ran. Lemme tell you about a Medal of Honor winner they called “Leatherbreeches" …
Meet Hubert Anton Casimir Dilger -- you may recognize his stylish European haughtiness from such places as the Eurovision semi-finals or the Black Forest of Germany, where he attended the famed Karlsruhe Military Academy and served in the Grand Duke of Baden’s Horse Artillery.
Fate, of course, dictated that Dilger fell in love with the Grand Duke’s daughter -- cuz isn’t that what 90 percent of European literature is about? A rakish young officer from the Wrong Side of Baden-Baden tries to woo the Duke’s daughter in a passionate but hopeless romance?
So when the Civil War broke out, the Grand Duke was MORE than happy to accept Dilger’s request to fight for the Union. “Sure, Hubert, check out the USA. Hell, SOMEONE has to introduce a decent lager to the Midwest. Otherwise, they’ll convince themselves that IPAs are drinkable."
Using his connections from Germany, Dilger was made a captain of Battery I in the 1st Ohio Light Artillery. And it was soon called “Dilger’s Battery,” cuz folks realized the brash young officer did things a little differently (and, umm, far better) than his American colleagues.
For one, Dilger was a literal Fancy Pants. That’s right, Victorian fashionistas: you can keep your denim or wool or homespun cloth -- the only material Hubert deemed worthy of covering HIS heroic haunches was the finest buckskin.

And the nickname “Leatherbreeches” was born ...
(I know what you’re thinking: “Okay, CWH, but where does this put Dilger on the pantheon of History’s Great Leather Pants Wearers?” On my list, he’s right behind Mick Jagger and Lenny Kravitz -- careful with that zipper, Lenny! But the top spot, obviously, belongs to Diana Rigg.)
Fast-forward to Chancellorsville -- where, as I mentioned in my post on Sunday, not everyone was caught off-guard by Stonewall’s flank attack. Dilger hadn’t come to these shores just to sit around and make Schnitzel; he rode way to the north and saw Stonewall’s men approaching.
Dilger galloped back to Hooker’s HQ, where you’ll be shocked to learn that the warnings of a lowly artillery captain (and a German at that!) went unheeded. So Dilger returned to the 11th Corps and wearily told his men to keep the horses nearby and swab out the cannons. (Gulp.)
As Stonewall’s men charged, Dilger fired canister, then dropped back 100 yards, reloading and firing, then dropping back. It was a delaying tactic not unlike Buford’s at Gettysburg, only instead of doing it with dismounted cavalry, Dilger was DRAGGING A FUCKING CANNON BEHIND HIM.
Dilger’s Medal of Honor says he “fought his guns until the enemy were upon him, then with one gun hauled in the road by hand he formed the rear guard and kept the enemy at bay by the rapidity of his fire and was the last man in the retreat.”

(You try doing that in NORMAL pants.)
Dilger had another big day at Gettysburg, where he arrived on the field, unlimbered his guns, aimed a cannon, and fired. “What effect, Captain?” he was asked. Peering through his glass, he said: “I have spiked a gun for them, plugging it in the muzzle.”

A Civil War Hole-In-One.
That’s why the Civil War fascinates me: Dilger could have spent his life strutting down the catwalks of Berlin, rocking his leather pants to a godawful mix of 1860s polka and early techno. But, nope, he went to Ohio instead, to help Yankees blow Rebel caissons all to hell. #Danke
Alas, the apples fell pretty far from the tree. Dilger’s son, educated in Germany, hatched a plan to poison US livestock with anthrax during WW I, and two of his grandsons were Nazi generals (although another was in the US Navy.) So it was brother against brother all over again.
But I wonder if Dilger ever thought about his stand at Chancellorsville, and the Duke who mocked his youthful ardor. “Who do you think you are, Frederick the Great?” the Duke probably sneered. “You’re Hubert the Nobody.”

And he’d say: "Not anymore. I’m Leatherbreeches, bitch.”

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More from @CivilWarHumor

2 May
Oh, Chancellorsville. No CW battle is as frustrating. Hooker planted some good seeds, but everything #OTD in 1863 that could go wrong DID go wrong (except for, um, the aim of the 18th N. Carolina) cuz Stonewall’s flank march took the Union by surprise. Or so the story goes … Image
But even as a young Civil War "buff," my Trapper Keeper festooned with corps badges, I thought: “Oh, sure, Lee as Superhero again. How do 33,000 stinky dudes, knapsacks & guns a-clankin’, horses neighing, sneak up on an army without raising dust & alarm?”

Turns out, they didn’t. Image
At Chancellorsville, the Army of the Potomac experienced an almost unbelievable concurrence of Tough Luck, Brain Farts, Bad Weather, Buck Passing, Wrong Place/Wrong Timeism, and Not All The McClellan Washed Out Quite Yet. It’s almost as if Joe Hooker had Bad Karma or something. Image
Read 20 tweets
26 Apr
A collection of diaries from a soldier in the 150th Ohio, Samuel Folsom, got auctioned off last week -- too rich for my blood, but the auctioneers posted excerpts online and, like so many from that era, he was articulate and personable, with a sense of humor. Let’s take a peek …
Folsom hailed from Cleveland, where he heard Frederick Douglass deliver a lecture on the missions of the war in early 1864. “I enjoyed it very much. Douglas displays very fine powers of oratory and has a head that looks as though it might contain a great deal of knowledge.” #Yep
Folsom was an accountant (deduct that kepi!) and despite Douglass’ stirring words, was NOT thrilled about marching off to war. “I telegraphed home to inquire if Father had procured a substitute for me,” meaning someone paid to take his place. “Rec’d an answer: ‘No.’”
Read 13 tweets
17 Apr
HOLD ON. As a disciple of Grady McWhiney, the problematic Civil War scholar and Braxton Bragg biographer, I was taught that the Southern Warrior(™) descended directly from tribal Celts, NOT the Anglo-Saxons! That’s why the Rebs fought so hard but recklessly, or some bullshit …
And, sure, McWhiney’s Celtic Thesis has been widely discredited by things like migration patterns and the fact there were more “Celtic” descendants in the UNION ranks (oops), but if leading Republicans wanna do Batshit Crazy Race Theory, they should AT LEAST be consistent.
Can you IMAGINE if our intellectually rigorous right-wingers caught wind of, say, Tucker Carlson contradicting a Truth that William F. Buckley laid down? It would NEVER happen. Cuz that’s what stands out about the last 40 years of Republican thinking: the unassailable logic.
Read 5 tweets
13 Apr
I tell this story every year, as a kind of Moral Parable, but it doesn't seem to sink in. So here we go again, America: it's time to hear how the fire-breathing secessionist Roger Pryor almost became the first casualty of the war thanks to his own breathtaking stupidity.
Pryor, who is inevitably described as a “fiery orator” even though he has the same dead-eyed Stare of the Soulless as Tucker Carlson, was asked to take the first shot on Fort Sumter, but turned it down, saying: “I could not fire the first gun of the war.”
The next day, while visiting Sumter to negotiate the Federal surrender, Pryor saw a bottle on the table and, being full of swagger, took a swig. A Union surgeon approached him and said: “Sir, what you have drunk is poison. It was iodide of potassium and you are a dead man.” #Oops
Read 9 tweets
12 Apr
“And now we go LIVE to our correspondent, CivilWarHumor, who says the Rebels have fired on Fort Sumter.”
“That’s right, Bill. It’s a dramatic day, and let there be no doubt: The South started it. But I’m here with the guy who fired the first Union shot, Abner Doubleday ...”
“Capt. Doubleday, talk about the mindset you went out there with today.”
“Well, when we were firing the cannons in warmups, I knew I didn’t have my best stuff.”
“Ok ...”
“So I just tried to stay within myself and let the war come to me. Which it did — you can’t deny that.”
“And, Abner, how did YOU get to fire the first Union shot?”
“I wasn’t in the starting lineup. But our major, Robert Anderson, is from a Kentucky slave-owning family. Whereas I’m a staunch, abrasive abolitionist.”
“So you came out of the bullpen.”
“I stepped up to the plate.”
Read 11 tweets
11 Apr
“Uncle CivilWarHumor, tell us a story about the day after Shiloh.”
“I don’t like to talk about it.”
“Why? The Union drove the Rebels from the field. Bragg was practically in tears. That’s kinda your bag. Or is Shiloh too sad? Too many deaths?”
“Always. But also one too few ...” Image
“THEY HAD HIM!” (CWH grabs Nathan Bedford Forrest voodoo doll and jabs at it with a Swiss army knife) “They had Forrest IN THEIR GRASP and he got away!”
“You’re using the tweezers, uncle. What happened?”
“It’s getting late.”
“Ain’t no bedtime in COVID.”
“Ok, you twisted my arm." Image
“After Shiloh, Sherman pursued the Rebels.”
“He usually did.”
“That’s true. He came upon a field hospital guarded by Forrest’s cavalry, who chopped down trees to block the path.”
“Whoa. Did Sherman and Forrest engage in Single Combat as in days of yore?”
“They came mighty close." Image
Read 8 tweets

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