Wednesday, February 26, 2014


This is coolbert:

Thanks to the "Armchair General" July 2013 article by Colonel Ralph Peters we have considerably more on those German-speaking regiments part and parcel of the Union army during the American Civil War.

And as very germane to that previous blog entry, "Forty-Eighters".

As copied with good reason almost in entirety:

"Myth #7 Immigrant soldiers, especially Germans, couldn't and wouldn't fight."

"This lie has deep and ugly roots. The flood of immigrants that swept onto our shores in the wake of the failed European revolutions of 1848/49 and the simultaneous Irish potato famine excited far uglier prejudices than those we encounter today. many of the native-born felt besieged by new arrivals whose languages, customs and public behavior differed markedly from the tone set by the elite of New England or the aristocrats of the South. Since the largest number of immigrants served in the Union armies, the bigotry was especially salient in the blue ranks, and the newcomers who had volunteered to fight for their new country became the 'usual suspects' when anything went wrong. Union officers, such  as Major General Oliver O. Howard, showed far more compassion for black slaves they did not know than for the Germans or Irishmen under their command."

"While a wide range of nationalities served in both armies - - there was even one Chinese at Gettysburg - - The German and Irish formed the largest non-native contingents, and each faced a different set of prejudices. The Irish were regarded as good brawlers on the battlefield, but as racially debased and inferior. The Germans, many of whom spoke English comically to the American ear, were dismissed as incapable of soldiering at the level of the native-born (an interesting assumption, given the perform of Prussian and German armies between 1866 and 1945). [and hardly can we forget the performance of the Prussians under the command of Frederick the Great] When things went wrong the Germans in particular got the blame."

"While the prejudice was there from the beginning, it exploded after Chancellorsville, with the spread of the nickname 'the Flying Dutchmen' [Germans referred to as Dutchmen a corruption of Deutsch mann] for the XI Corps' German speaking units that broke and ran when surprised in their bivouacs. What few people understood then or realize today is that there was a cover-up after the battle. The bigoted abolitionist Howard, had been warned by his German subordinates - - several  of whom had served as officers in their homeland - - that he needed to reposition units to cover the army's flanks. Howard dismissed their concerns and refused to take action. Only the decision of a small group of German-speakers to move two of (Polish-born) Colonel Wlodzimierz Kryzanowski's regiments into a blocking position on their own initiative save the XI Corps and its artillery from an even grimmer fate. Those two regiments of Germans and Poles stood fast for an hour, suffered 50 percent casualties, and only withdrew grudgingly when so ordered. They had delayed two of Stonewall Jackson's brigades. yet those self-sacrificing regiments too, were lumped in with the 'Flying Dutchmen,' and criticism of Howard was swiftly hushed up outside of the army. The XI Corps' English-speaking units who fled the field were exempted from criticisms."

"Again at Gettysburg, it was a native-born officer - - Brigadier General Francis Channing Barlow - - who disobeyed orders, exposed the army's flank and opened fatal gaps in the XI Corps defense on July 1st. Barlow's division (not all of whom were German-speakers) broke, but Kryzanowski's brigade and other immigrant units resisted ferociously, despite being outflanked again and again ( thanks to Barlow's blunder). Remembering that afternoon, Confederate veterans noted that the Germans fought harder than other Yankees had in past encounters: yet, when it came time apportion blame for the losses on the first day of the battle, the well-connected Barlow escaped censure, while eh Germans were mocked again. And yet those same 'cowardly' Germans would fight on through the Chattanooga campaign, march across Georgia and battle their way north through the Carolinas."

Those "Forty-Eighters" serving in the Union army officers and enlisted both have been given a raw deal by history. So it seems and this needs to be corrected. History is a constantly exfoliating and growing tree!


No comments: