The German immigrants of the 11th Corps took the brunt of the blame for the collapse of the Federal right at Chancellorsville, when Stonewall Jackson's celebrated flanking maneuver caught the Federals off-guard and rolled up Hooker's line. But there was courage and honor amidst the otherwise wholesale Federal flight. Bob Krick, in a wonderful series of essays archived by the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, described the heroics that earned Dilger the MoH at Chancellorsville:
The most famous and dramatic Federal resistance on that afternoon came from a German-immigrant artillery officer, Capt. Hubert Dilger. The captain had turned an Ohio battery into a well-tuned unit, despite what he called "the intrigues & petit jealousies of the different german cliques" in the 11th Corps, and had become recognizable by the doeskin German-style britches he wore. When the Federal right collapsed on May 2, "Leatherbreeches" Dilger retired methodically down the Orange Turnpike (modern State Route 3), firing a single cannon in the road, then falling back and doing it again.
The Medal of Honor (usually miscalled the Congressional Medal of Honor), meant appreciably less during the Civil War than it came to signify for a time during the mid-20th century. Four New Englanders who won the medal for actions near Fredericksburg, for instance, received them three decades later--immediately after (to suggest coincidence strains credulity) one of them became his state's adjutant general, and a second of them became his assistant. It is impossible, however, to doubt that Capt. Dilger richly deserved the honor, by the standards of any era. "Fought his guns until the enemy were upon him," the citation read, "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." The devoutly Virginian historian who chronicled the history of Robert E. Lee's artillery admiringly described Dilger's feat as "an example of almost superhuman courage and energy."
Virginian scenery and people apparently fetched Hubert Dilger. In 1881, having grown rich by inheritance, he bought a large stock farm near Front Royal and began raising pure-bred cattle. Two years later a prize bull, perhaps unconvinced of Dilger's credentials as a freshly converted Virginian, gored him badly, but the old warrior survived and lived into the new century.
Dilger's son, Anton, was born on that Shenandoah Valley farm, but removed to Germany at age 10. Decades later, still a U.S. citizen, he could not enlist in the German army, but as an American loyal to Berlin, he was ideally suited for undercover operations against his homeland. Robert Koenig's new book on Anton Dilger looks to be a good read on an intriguing topic. According to this review in the San Francisco Chronicle:
"Anton Dilger, an American saboteur working for the German government, rented lodgings not 6 miles from the White House. In his basement, he set up a small laboratory and, on behalf of the General Staff in Berlin, he began a highly secret campaign to wage biological warfare on U.S. soil. His target would be the horses and cattle supplied to the Allied armies by the then-neutral United States, and Dilger set about cultivating anthrax bacteria and Pseudomonas mallei, the germ that causes glanders, a crippling equine disease. But who was Dilger, and how did the son of a Union Army captain become a German secret agent?"
Later, Anton Dilger approached the Mexican government to foster an alliance with Germany, tempting the Mexicans with the prospect of reclaiming the American Southwest. As it turned out, the sins of the son failed to eclipse the valor of the father. Anton Dilger, the Shenandoah Valley saboteur with a keen interest in biological warfare, died young (34) at the hands of a common virus, the Spanish Flu. No medals for him.