Civil War Citizens: Race, Ethnicity, and Identity in America's Bloodiest Conflict

Civil War Citizens: Race, Ethnicity, and Identity in America's Bloodiest Conflict

Civil War Citizens: Race, Ethnicity, and Identity in America's Bloodiest Conflict

Civil War Citizens: Race, Ethnicity, and Identity in America's Bloodiest Conflict

Excerpt

On September 10, 1861, applause shook the walls of Institute Hall in Charleston, South Carolina. The audience cheered its local men, most of them German-born, who had volunteered as soldiers for the Confederacy. Having enjoyed a “stirring and patriotic address in the tongue of the Faterland [sic],” it was the gift from the German Ladies Society of Charleston that brought the audience to its feet. The women had sewn the company flag with the colors of the United States on one side and the colors of their homeland on the other. As Captain W. K. Bachman raised the banner and turned to address his men, the ladies rained flowers down from the balcony, which the young volunteers placed in their muskets. Addressing the enthusiastic crowd, Bachman cried out, “Comrades. This is our flag. Under it you are to go to take your place in the contest.… Recollect at all times who made [this] flag. All that they ask in return is that you will never bring dishonor upon their own loved German name.”

Twelve days earlier an even larger crowd had gathered in Jones’s Wood in New York City. Irish revolutionary Thomas Francis Meagher, a Captain in the 69th New York State Militia Regiment, spoke to a crowd gathered to honor the Irish men who had fallen the previous month in defense of the Union at the Battle of First Bull Run. The Wood, a New York Times reporter observed, “was crowded to an excess which can scarcely be described without apparent exaggeration.” Meagher cast his voice over the audience and called on the listeners to join him in honoring with “proud regard and duty… those whose husbands and fathers, fighting in the ranks of the Sixty-ninth, were slain in battle, sealing their oath of American citizenship with their blood.”

Despite the wealth of scholarship on the U.S. Civil War, especially regarding how individuals and communities responded to the conflict, there is no comprehensive study of immigrants and nonwhites in the North and South during this era, who constituted nearly 15 percent of the U.S. population in 1860. Despite their numerical significance, as well as their influence on . . .

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