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New Perspectives in Civil War Ethnic History and Their Implications for Twenty-First-Century Scholarship

New Perspectives in Civil War Ethnic History and Their Implications for Twenty-First-Century Scholarship

Chapter:
(p.123) New Perspectives in Civil War Ethnic History and Their Implications for Twenty-First-Century Scholarship
Source:
This Distracted and Anarchical People
Author(s):
Christian B. Keller
Publisher:
Fordham University Press
DOI:10.5422/fordham/9780823245680.003.0008

This chapter examines current scholarship on ethnicity in the northern states during the era of the American Civil War, and, through analysis of neglected primary source documents, offers thematic avenues of approach for future research. These themes include debates about the raw numbers of ethnic soldiers who wore blue, their battlefield performance, and their assimilation preferences during and after the war. Focusing on German and Irish immigrants and civilians, the author contends that far more Union soldiers were of ethnic background than previously considered, that the German-born soldiers of the Federal XI Corps fought as well as could be expected at Chancellorsville and elsewhere, that both the northern Irish and Germans encountered considerable nativism during the war that affected acculturation with the greater Anglo-American core culture, and that their experiences during the war did not quicken their assimilation into general American society, but rather retarded it, creating for many a culturally pluralistic view that simultaneously embraced Americanism while enshrining ethnic cultural traits.

Keywords:   German-American, Irish-American, Assimilation, Chancellorsville, Ethnicity, Nativism, Pluralism

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