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Chancellorsville and the GermansNativism, Ethnicity, and Civil War Memory$
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Christian B. Keller

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780823226504

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: March 2011

DOI: 10.5422/fso/9780823226504.001.0001

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German Americans, Know Nothings, and the Outbreak of the War

German Americans, Know Nothings, and the Outbreak of the War

(p.10) 1 German Americans, Know Nothings, and the Outbreak of the War
Chancellorsville and the Germans

Christian B. Keller

Fordham University Press

The most significant reason Chancellorsville later became so important for German Americans had to do with a pre-Civil War sociopolitical movement called the “Know Nothing” or “American” Party. This nativistic, anti-immigrant group of Anglo Americans strove to curtail immigrant voting rights, attacked immigrant religion and culture—especially German and Irish beer, whiskey, and Catholicism. It blamed those groups for fomenting crime, and urged quick assimilation of immigrants into the mainstream of American life. Although the Know Nothings were themselves a party created mainly out of irrational xenophobia, they represented a powerful and deep-set impulse within American society that inherently distrusted the foreigner and associated with him much that was perceived as negative in nineteenth-century American life: unemployment, lethargy, immorality, and Romanism. Although ninety percent of German Americans lived in the north, they divided sharply between the Democratic and Republican Party based in part on which organization they perceived offered the most protection from nativism.

Keywords:   Chancellorsville, German Americans, Know Nothings, Anglo Americans, slavery, nativism, xenophobia, immigrants

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