Edward Sigerfoos – Brigadier General, United States Army

Brigadier General Edward Sigerfoos was the highest ranking officer of the American Expeditionary Forces killed in the World War (World War I). He was mortally wounded at the front on September 29, 1918, and died in the base hospital eight days afterward. He is properly ranked as one of the famous Ohioans of his generation.

His old home community was in Darke County, though he was born in Miami County, December 14, 1868. His father, George W. Sigerfoos, was born in 1825, in Maryland, was taken to Montgomery County, Ohio, in 1834, and in early life was a farmer and school teacher and subsequently a brick maker. He became a merchant, and in 1872 established a business at Arcanum in Darke County, where he was engaged until his death, on October 16, 1875. He married in 1850 Nancy Shanck, who was born in Montgomery County, Ohio, in 1830. Of the children of George Sigerfoos and wife three, including Edward, gained distinction as educators. Miss Arabella, whose home is at Arcanum, graduated from the Michigan State Normal College and taught in Ohio and also in California. A son, Charles P. Sigerfoos, the older brother of Edward, was a graduate of the class of 1889 from the Ohio State University, and for a quarter of a century has been professor of zoology at the University of Minnesota.

Edward Sigerfoos attended public schools until he was sixteen, and in the fall of 1885 accompanied his older brother, Charles, to the Ohio State University, spending two years in the preparatory school and graduating with the class of 1891. He took a lively interest in all phases of student life, distinguishing himself in his class rooms, becoming editor in chief of the “Lantern,” took a prominent part in the literary society and won honors on the platform, and began his military career on the campus by becoming the captain of a company in the University Battalion, winning the prize sword for the best drilled company, and later a medal in a state contest at Portsmouth.

With such thoroughness of preparation it was not difficult for him to gain admission to the United States Army, which he did in less than two months after his graduation. On August 1, 1891, he was appointed a Second Lieutenant of the Fifth United States Infantry. He did not find army life inconsistent with his serious habits of study, and while at Fort Leavenworth he achieved the title of “Honor Graduate” of the United States Infantry and Cavalry School in 1895. During the Christmas holidays of that
year he married Miss Opal Robeson, of Greenville. In April, 1898, he was promoted to the rank of First Lieutenant, and four months later was sent to Cuba, where he served for more than a year as commissary under General Leonard Wood. The war with Spain afforded him still further experience beyond the immediate boundaries of the Untied States, for he spent the next four years in the Philippines, and was commissioned a Captain February 2, 1901, and made an Adjutant the following September.

In 1905 Captain Sigerfoos was detailed to serve as professor of military science and tactics at the University of Minnesota, where his brother was professor of zoology. During his four years in the institution Edward Sigerfoos not only gained an enviable reputation as a teacher and commandant of University Cadets, but also found time for his self-improvement by completing the regular and post-graduate courses in law, receiving the degree of Bachelor of Laws in 1908 and that of Master of Laws in 1909.

In 1915 he graduated highest in the class in the War College at Washington, though the youngest officer in the class. He remained there a year as a professor of war games, and then was given a taste of active service with Pershing on the Mexican border, after which he was sent to China. Meantime, he was acquitting himself with unfailing credit in every duty to which he was assigned, and was earning his promotions through Major to Colonel. As commandant of the American Forces he was in charge of the Red Cross Relief during the foods at Tien-tsin.

Colonel Sigerfoos was recalled from China, soon after America entered the World war, and after a few months was sent to France and put in charge of a group of army schools at Langres. It was in the course of this duty that he several times went to the front. He had just been detailed in command of the Fifty-sixth Infantry Brigade at Mount Balinville in the Argonne Drive, and was wounded, dying October 7, 1918. He has been promoted to Brigadier General on the basis of a citation from Brigadier General H. A. Smith, commanding the army schools. General Smith’s citation read as follows: “I recommend that Colonel Edward Sigerfoos, Infantry, be promoted to be Brigadier General. Colonel Sigerfoos is a graduate of Ohio State University, is a polished and cultured man, and an officer of character and decision. He took charge of the Army School of the Line last May, and has made a great success of this school, which up to that time had been a failure. I believe that Colonel Sigerfoos merits this promotion.”

One of his classmates at the university wrote of him: “There was little of the traditional army officer about him and much that belongs to the newer type. He consistently maintained and strengthened the Christian character which he possessed in youth. I never heard him use a word unfitted for the presence of wife or daughter. He was an abstainer, even of tobacco; and in his room at Langres I saw three things in prominent places: A picture of wife, daughter and son, the Bible and an American flag. To them he gave full devotion and from them he received the inspiration of a life that was strong, true and useful.”

General Sigerfoos was survived by his wife and two children. Grace and Edward. The daughter Grace, attended the University of Minnesota for a time, but graduated from the University of Michigan class of 1923. After General Sigerfoos went to France his wife returned to her old home in Ohio, at Greenville, to live with her parents, but at present lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

First American General To Give His Life In This War Was With The Seventy-seventh Division

October 25, 1918 – Brigadier General Edward Sigerfoos, who went overseas as Colonel in command of the 152nd Depot Brigade of the Seventy-seventh Division, has died of wounds received in action. He was recently promoted by President Wilson, and is the first officer of a grade higher than Colonel to die of wounds received in this war.

General Sigerfoos was on duty with the 15th Infantry at Tiestsin, China, when Congress declared war and was one of the first officers of that unit ordered home for assignment to duty in France. He was the third officer of his rank to be wounded. The others are General Douglas MacArthur, who was wounded while serving as Chief of Staff of the Rainbow Division, and BrigadierGeneral Albertus W. Catlin, who commanded one of the Marine Regiments at Chateau-Thierry.  Generals MacArthur and Catlin have both recovered and are now back on active duty.

General Sigerfoos was born in Ohio in 1868 and entered the Army from civil life as a Second Lieuetnant of the 5th Infantry in August 1891. He was a graduate of the Ohio State Universityand for a time was commandant of cadets at Minnesota University. He was honored with the degree of Master of Laws by that institution in 1909.

General Sigerfoos also was an homor graduate of the Army War College of the Class of 1915, and an honor graduate of the Infantry and Cavalry Schoolof 1895.  His army career was passed in the 5th, 7th and 15th Regiments of Infantry.

His wife, Opal Robeson Sigerfoos, 23 January 1870-4 September 1957) is buried with the General in Section 3 of Arlington National Cemetery.


  • DATE OF DEATH: 10/07/1918
  • DATE OF INTERMENT: 07/25/1921


  • DATE OF BIRTH: 01/23/1870
  • DATE OF DEATH: 09/04/1957
  • DATE OF INTERMENT: 09/06/1957

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