A complete index of the series is at the bottom of the page. Join us on facebook.
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the start of the American Civil War. The war ended slavery, gave citizenship to non-whites, and established the legal unity of the United States, albeit at bayonet point.
When asked who won the Civil War, one historian once reportedly quipped, “The American Booksellers Association.” New books on the ancient conflict are churned out monthly by respected publishing houses, university presses, and specialty publishers. And we should never forget that more books have been published on Abraham Lincoln than on any other American.
Yet, while whole forests have been cleared to fill the public’s need for new books on the conflict, comparatively little has been written about the role of immigrants in the Civil War.
Sure, there are many books of the ethnic pride sort that boast of the special accomplishments of this or that immigrant group, but the shelf of scholarly books on the immigrant experience between 1861 and 1865 is short indeed.
Hofstra University’s Library, for example, has more books on a single battle, Gettysburg, than it does on the hundreds of thousands of foreign-born soldiers who fought in the war. And there is almost no mention in the history books of the families the immigrants left at home to go fight for their new country.
That is why I am starting an in-depth series on the role of immigrants in the American Civil War.
In conjunction with the anniversary of the war, I intend to post at least one piece per month for the next four years on the Immigrants’ Civil War. The content will range from overviews of the different immigrant communities on the eve of war and the recruitment of foreign-born soldiers, to immigrant riots against the draft and relations between immigrants and newly freed African Americans.
You’ll learn about how the US Army dealt with non-English speaking soldiers, how Germans in Texas suffered for their opposition to slavery, and the peculiar position of Jewish immigrants in the South.
I’ll also tell you about the Latino immigrants who changed countries without ever moving out of their homes in New Mexico and how they helped keep slavery out of the West.
You will find out how men and women who were treated like second-class citizens before the fall of Fort Sumter assumed the ranks of defenders of their country, as they struggled to understand their place in a violently changing America.
I hope you’ll join me in learning about The Immigrants’ Civil War.
The Immigrants’ Civil War is a series that will examine the role of immigrants in our bloodiest war. Articles will appear monthly between 2011 and 2015, the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War. Here are the articles we have published so far:
1. Immigrant America on the Eve of the Civil War - Take a swing around the United States and see where immigrants were coming from and where they were living in 1861.
2. 1848: The Year that Created Immigrant America - Revolutions in Europe, famine and oppression in Ireland, and the end of the Mexican War made 1848 a key year in American immigration history.
3. Carl Schurz: From German Radical to American Abolitionist- A teenaged revolutionary of 1848, Carl Schurz brought his passion for equality with him to America.
5. ...And the War Came to Immigrant America -The impact of the firing on Fort Sumter on America’s immigrants
10. Immigrant Day Laborers Help Build the First Fort to Protect Washington-The Fighting 69th use their construction skills.
12. Immigrants Rush to Join the Union Army-Why?- The reasons immigrants gave for enlisting early in the war.
17. Immigrant Regiments on Opposite Banks of Bull Run -The Fighting 69th and the Louisiana Tigers
The Harp and the Eagle: Irish American Volunteers and the Union Army, 1861 to 1865 by Susannah Ural Bruce
Jews and the Civil War: A Reader Edited by Jonathan Sarna and Adam Mendelsohn
Civil War Citizens edited by Susannah Ural Bruce
Germans in the Civil War: The Letters They Wrote Home edited by Walter Kamphoefner and Wolfgang Helbich
Immigration Vacation -Civil War Sites
Fort Schuyler- Picnic where the Irish Brigade trained.
Read the first installment of The Immigrants’ Civil War.