Carl Schurz was born in Cologne, Germany, on 2nd March, 1829. While studying at the University of Bonn he became involved in radical politics. Schurz took part in the 1848 German Revolution and was afterwards forced to flee to Switzerland.
Schurz spent time in France and England before emigrating to the United States in 1852. Schurz and his wife lived in New York for a while before buying a farm in Watertown, Wisconsin. In 1856 Margarethe Schurz founded the first kindergarten in America. A strong supporter of universal suffrage, Schurz once wrote: "Our ideals resemble the stars, which illuminate the night. No one will ever be able to touch them. But the men who, like the sailors on the ocean, take them for guides, will undoubtedly reach their goal."
A leading member of the Republican Party, in 1860 Schurz campaigned for Abraham Lincoln in Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. After the election, President Lincoln appointed Schurz as U.S. envoy to Spain.
Schurz was an active campaigner against slavery and on the outbreak of the American Civil War joined the forces of the Union Army. He helped recuit Germans living in New York before being asked to negotiate with European governments on behalf of Abraham Lincoln.
On his return to the United States, Schurz served under General John Fremont, the commander of the Department of the West. Soon afterwards he was given the rank of brigadier general and placed in command of the 3rd Division of the Army of Virginia (26th June, 1862 to 12th September, 1862).
Schurz also commanded the 3rd Division of the Army of Potomac (12th September, 1862 to 2nd April, 1863) and took part in the battles at Bull Run (July, 1862) and Fredericksburg (December, 1862). After the battle he was promoted to the rank of major general, replacing his friend and fellow German, Franz Sigel. Schurz also took part in the battle at Chancellorsville (May, 1863) and Gettysburg (July, 1863) before being given command of the 3rd Division of the Army of the Cumberland (25th September, 1863 to 21st January, 1864).
After the war Schurz worked as the Washington correspondent of the New York Tribune. This was followed by a period as editor-in-chief of the Detroit Post. In 1867 he became editor of the German language newspaper, the Westliche Post, in St. Louis, Missouri.
Schurz remained active in the Republican Party and in 1869 was elected to the Senate. In 1872 he, like many Radical Republicans, supported Horace Greeley against Ulysses S. Grant, the official Republican candidate. Despite the efforts of Schurz and his close friend in Missouri, Joseph Pulitzer, Grant won the presidential election by 286 electoral votes to 66.
In 1877 President Rutherford Hayes appointed Schurz as his secretary of the interior. Over the next four years Schurz introduced civil service reforms and made improvements to the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
After leaving office in 1881 Schurz returned to journalism and became managing editor of the New York Evening Post. He also wrote for Harper's Weekly, The Nation and had several books published including The Life of Henry Clay (1887) and Abraham Lincoln (1891). Carl Schurz died on 14th May, 1906.