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Civil War Citizens

Civil War Citizens: Race, Ethnicity, and Identity in Americas Bloodiest Conflict

EDITED BY Susannah J. Ural
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 252
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  • Book Info
    Civil War Citizens
    Book Description:

    At its core, the Civil War was a conflict over the meaning of citizenship. Most famously, it became a struggle over whether or not to grant rights to a group that stood outside the pale of civil-society: African Americans. But other groups--namely Jews, Germans, the Irish, and Native Americans--also became part of this struggle to exercise rights stripped from them by legislation, court rulings, and the prejudices that defined the age.Grounded in extensive research by experts in their respective fields, Civil War Citizens is the first volume to collectively analyze the wartime experiences of those who lived outside the dominant white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant citizenry of nineteenth-century America. The essays examine the momentous decisions made by these communities in the face of war, their desire for full citizenship, the complex loyalties that shaped their actions, and the inspiring and heartbreaking results of their choices-- choices that still echo through the United States today. Contributors: Stephen D. Engle, William McKee Evans, David T. Gleeson, Andrea Mehrlnder, Joseph P. Reidy, Robert N. Rosen, and Susannah J. Ural.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-8573-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. 1-10)
    Susannah J. Ural

    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...

  4. 1 YANKEE DUTCHMEN: Germans, the Union, and the Construction of a Wartime Identity
    (pp. 11-56)
    Stephen D. Engle

    For all the debate about states’ rights and slavery being the cause of the American Civil War, the actual conflict was fought between military communities, no matter how large or small, no matter what their ethnic complexion. “This is essentially a People’s contest,” explained Abraham Lincoln in his July 1861 message to Congress. As such, immigrants, along with their fellow Americans, needed to embrace the notion that they were preserving a Union that was favorable to their plight, and perhaps in some way make inroads into establishing themselves as more acceptable to Americans. As Phillip Shaw Paludan so wonderfully argues...

  5. 2 “WITH MORE FREEDOM AND INDEPENDENCE THAN THE YANKEES”: The Germans of Richmond, Charleston, and New Orleans during the American Civil War
    (pp. 57-98)
    Andrea Mehrländer

    Due to an extremely difficult source situation, a monographic discussion of the position of Germans or German Americans in the Confederacy is still the largest and most serious research gap in the field of American studies of the Civil War era.¹

    By 1850, no fewer than 44.3% of all foreigners who had emigrated to the antebellum South lived in the eight largest Southern cities and represented together more than 39% of the free white population of these cities. The Germans dominated especially in New Orleans (12.9%) and Charleston (9.1%), followed by Memphis (5.5%) and Richmond (5.0%).² Highly urbanized, single, and...

  6. 3 “YE SONS OF GREEN ERIN ASSEMBLE”: Northern Irish American Catholics and the Union War Effort, 1861–1865
    (pp. 99-132)
    Susannah J. Ural

    Surrounded by rain-soaked roads and the brisk chill of a Minnesota March, Christopher Byrne struggled to understand the events whirling about him. It was early spring in 1863, a date that marked his tenth year in America and his six-month anniversary with the U.S. Army. Encamped along the Blue Earth River, Byrne composed a letter to his brother in Ireland, trying to explain to his sibling the causes of America’s Civil War, his personal involvement in the conflict, and what he hoped for his new home land and himself. Byrne’s letter offers a powerful example of how Irish American Catholics...

  7. 4 IRISH REBELS, SOUTHERN REBELS: The Irish Confederates
    (pp. 133-156)
    David T. Gleeson

    At Hibernian Hall in Charleston, South Carolina, in late 1877, former congressional candidate Michael Patrick (M. P.) O’Connor was master of ceremonies of an event to raise money for a new monument “to the Irish Volunteers.” The Volunteers had served in the Confederate army during the Civil War. O’Connor had been an important member of Wade Hampton’s “straight-out” ticket, which had recently “redeemed” the state from Radical Republican rule and ended Reconstruction. The Catholic son of an Irish immigrant had helped certify Irish Charleston’s loyalty to the Redeemer cause, and he would win election to Congress in 1878 as a...

    (pp. 157-186)
    Robert N. Rosen

    In March 1865, Samuel Yates Levy, a captain in the Confederate army and a prisoner of war at Johnson’s Island, wrote his father, J. C. Levy of Savannah, “I long to breathe the free air of Dixie.” Like the Levy family, Southern Jews were an integral part of the Confederate States of America and had been breathing the free air of Dixie for 200 years.

    When the Civil War began, there were sizable Jewish communities in all the major Southern cities. Louisiana boasted more than five congregations. New Orleans had the seventh-largest Jewish population in the United States (Boston was...

    (pp. 187-212)
    William McKee Evans

    In 1861, when news of the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter swept the country, Native Americans could have had few illusions about being on the winning side. They had been on the losing side in all the white men’s wars. In the Seven Years’ (or French and Indian) War, the Indians had sided with the French, whom they experienced not as land-grabbing settlers but as merchants who bought their furs and sold them European goods. The French and Indians lost. Then, in the American War for Independence, the Indians sided with the British, who had taken over the French fur...

    (pp. 213-236)
    Joseph P. Reidy

    Between the Revolution and the Civil War, successive generations of Americans debated the meaning of citizenship. The vocabulary drew upon the legacy of the Revolution and similar struggles for national independence and republican government in the Atlantic world during the late eighteenth century and early nineteenth century. The language addressed both the broad relationship between citizens and governmental institutions and the specific rights and responsibilities of citizens, particularly the most cherished prize of republican citizenship, the elective franchise. Yet, given the strong association of the vote with property-owning white, male household heads, citizenship rights necessarily affected domestic as well as...

    (pp. 237-238)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 239-240)