A Home in the South: The
Turners of Galveston, Texas,
K. B. Wamsley
In the body of literature describing the nineteenth-century experience of German-American immigrants, particularly the Turners, there are a number of discrepancies surrounding various Antebellum and Civil War issues. Many scholars have emphasized a countrywide pattern of universal thought and action by Turners during this most disruptive period in United States history. More recent studies, however, document a blatant regional disparity in Turner behavior. In light of this dilemma, it is the intent of this study to document the German-American immigrant experience in a southern city through an examination of the social and political initiatives of the Turners. Adaptation to a new home and emergence as an active political and economic force in the community are factors which provide a possible explanation for Turner attitudes toward particular issues of the period.
There is little doubt that German immigrants contributed immensely to the establishment of physical and intellectual traditions in cities across the United States during the nineteenth-century. Through the establishment of social and political clubs, especially the turnverein, newly arrived German Americans secured immigrant political rights, promoted physical fitness, and encouraged an appreciation for education and German culture wherever they settled. Historians of the German-American Turner movement have concluded that political and moral postures of all Turners were universal throughout the United States during the Antebellum and Civil War periods. Such scholars contend that the Turners adhered to National Turnerbund or central governing body principles which included adopting an abolitionist stance on slavery, supporting Abraham Lincoln in the election of 1860, and fighting for the Union Army during the Civil War. Further analysis suggests, however, that