Paula Chrystine Poling Poling 1 Myths, Memories and Realities of the War Between the States Dr. Mary Ellen Rowe and Dr. Larry Olpin German, Irish, African and Native are all American For minorities, as for other Americans, the Civil War was an opportunity to prove their valor and loyalty. Among the first mustered into the Union army were a De Kalb regiment of German American Clerks, the Garibaldi Guards made up of Italian Americans, a Polish Legion, and hundreds of Irish American youths from Boston and New York. Many people firmly believed, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that immigrants instinctively supported the union, and given the chance, deserted the South and sought their compatriots in Northern regiments (Burton 201).
More than 400,000 European immigrants fought for the Union, including more than 170,000 Germans and more than 150,000 Irish. Many saw their services as a proud sacrifice.
William Burton writes in his book Melting Pot Soldiers about John Cochrane, the colonel of a regiment who was of Irish decent. Cochrane recalled the native soldiers in the Union forces as typically a conscript rather than a volunteer, lacking in zeal and fire. Immigrant soldiers, in Cochranes recollection, held flaming partisan views, had dash and spirit, volunteered eagerly, and had real martial ardor (201).
If we follow Cochranes description to the letter then all the other Americans were forced to serve their country and not because of their true loyalty and desire. Cochranes view is one of prejudice for his own ethnic group and against other American soldiers. Cynthia H. Enloe, in her pioneering work Ethnic soldiers: State Security in Divided Societies, went astray when she examined the history of immigrants in the North.
... lives to preserve the lives of the other millions of Americans that would rather sit at home and hope for ... training with the hummer and some stamina drills. Yesterday 6 soldiers passed out from heat exhaustion. It gets to be ... me, but some of them were just in as foot soldiers. I was glad that some of the guys I ... on a C-130 cargo plane with about 70 other soldiers.We are heading out to a US base near ...
State Security Planners she argued, treated recent immigrants as though they were outside the nation-state political system in the early part of the war, as they did the blacks (Burton 212).
This has been shown to be untrue, as stated earlier, ethnic groups were some of the first to join the war effort. Far from being a threat to state and national security, both the North and the South accepted the different ethnic groups into regular regiments and ethnic regiments where they proved very loyal. When the first three months were over more than 500 immediately reenlisted for three years (Jones 93) and most of the remainder joined other Irish-American units forming in the city, getting a step or two in rank as experienced soldiers (Jones 93).
Most Irish-Americans were willing to fight wherever they could but also had the desire to be recognized as being Irish-Americans. Most Germans and Irish who came to America came because they were fleeing from the wars being fought in their own countries.
1848 was a time of Revolution in Germany and the Irish had been involved in resistance to intolerable oppression, preferring exile to tyranny from England. The myth that these immigrants were ragged, ignorant and half starved overlooks the fact that this group also included many able and well-educated men including teachers, writers, surgeons, lawyers and journalists. A great many of these same immigrants were men who fought and died in the American Civil War. In the beginning of enlistment the African American volunteers were turned away from recruiting stations and told, This is a white mans war. Eventually they were allowed to enlist and both the North and the South had regiments of African American soldiers who fought and died bravely for this country. The myth that this was only a white mans war is portrayed in Paul Laurence Dunbars poem When Dey Listed Colored Soldiers An he couldnt baih to lingah wen he had a chanst to fight.
... of the Cold War years, they were often brazen in their zeal for Indian culture. Publications like The American Indian Hobbyist were ... future leaders. By design, Camp Fires programs, including small group experiences, after school programs, camping and environmental education, child ... artists can eradicate the stereotype that has governed the white mans perception of them for centuries. (Stone 121) Camp ...
For de freedom dey had gin him an de glory of de right (handout).
It is likely that the black men felt as strongly about this war as the white man did. Indians were a part of the Civil War in both Union and Confederate forces. There has been much discovery by our class discussion that the Indians have been almost completely omitted from the history of the Civil War. Once in a while there will be a lone Indian in a picture, not in a uniform but rather in traditional Indian dress of leather and feathers. Indians up until and after the Civil War had almost continuously been at war with the federal government over one thing or another. Reasons why they would join this fight are generally speculated upon.
Laurence Hauptman makes a very important point in his book, Between Two Fires: American Indians in the Civil War when he says, Most of all, it was their tenuous existence in both the North and South, that brought so many of the Indian nations to the Confederate or Union sides in 1861. They were dependant peoples as a result of American wars of conquest, treaties, or economic, political, social, and religious changes introduced by the Long Knives. From Connecticut to Indian Territory and from New York to South Carolina, they sought the warpath because it seemed imperative for their own and/or their Indian communitys survival (xii).
Perhaps the biggest myth about their enlistment was portrayed by Chief G.W. Grayson in his autobiography A Creek Warrior in the Confederacy when he asked us to believe his true reason for joining the war was to prove he wasnt afraid. It has been shown over and over in many books how men joined, no matter what ethnic background, and then deserted because of fear.
Remember Mark Twain, he joined but after he saw the first man killed, he left for the West to live with his brother during the remainder of the war. Graysons families were slaveholders and had been for generations. Now is not the time for argument about true motivations but a time to learn myth from reality. Finally, one of the biggest myths about the entire war by each different ethnic group is that writers of history tend to divide out their own group and then call the remainder the Americans. This usually shows a small minority against a large majority. When in all actuality that large majority is truly made up of smaller minority groups.
... . ” In Elizabeth Jane Errington’s book entitled, The Vietnam War as History, it probes the events in Southeast Asia in the thirty ... M. Nixon (1985), “No event in American history is more misunderstood than the Vietnam War. It was misreported then, and it is ... Vietnam conflicts and clear away numerous fallacies and myths which still surround the war. They seek to understand how and why events ...
Each group is bound by ideals, beliefs and dreams that are actually more of their own driving force than the group itself. The past is infinitely various, notes Oxford University historian Michael Howard, an inexhaustible storehouse of events from which we can prove anything or its contrary. History is what the historian writes, he continues, and everything we believe about the present depends upon what we believe about the past. This gives the historian the opportunity of helping to shape the future, but it also imposes the obligation of constant vigilance against present-mindedness. To be sure, all historians are to some extent mythmakers. In a democratic society, the challenge is to create a myth as close as possible to reality and also retain intellectual integrity (Burton 213).
While we can accept or reject any part of history as myth or vice versa let us form our own opinions around the history we have learned and believe.
That history will live on in time and be what other generations will know the most. If we put a 90s mentality into an 1860s event some things are bound to be misconstrued. Burton, William L. Melting Pot Soldiers: The Unions Ethnic Regiments. Ames: Iowa State UP, 1988. Grayson, Chief G.W. A Creek Warrior for the Confederacy.
ed. W. David Baird. Norman: U Oklahoma P, 1988. Hauptman, Laurence M. Between Two Fires: American Indians in the Civil War.
New York: Free Press, 1995. Jones, Paul. The Irish Brigade. New York: Luce, 1969.