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German-Speaking Officers in the U.S. Colored Troops, 1863-1867 (New Perspectives on the History of the South)

÷fele, Martin

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ISBN 10: 081302692X / ISBN 13: 9780813026923
Published by University Press of Florida, 2003
New Condition: New Hardcover
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Bibliographic Details

Title: German-Speaking Officers in the U.S. Colored...

Publisher: University Press of Florida

Publication Date: 2003

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition: New

About this title

Synopsis:

“The first work on foreign officers in the U.S. Colored Troops deals extensively with the relationship between black soldiers and white officers in these units. . . . An important contribution to the history of the Civil War and the issue of ‘what they fought for,’ of the political and ideological stance of German ethnics, and of the history of black Americans in the era of emancipation.”—Walter D. Kamphoefner, Texas A&M University


While the experiences of ethnic minorities in the Civil War have received increased attention in recent decades, the varied and not always easy relations between immigrants and African-Americans participating in the struggle have attracted scant notice.  This study explores the motivations of German-speaking immigrants in the U.S. Colored Troops (USCT) and the sometimes hostile, sometimes sympathetic reactions of their American comrades and enemies in the conflict.  Some immigrants were ardent abolitionists, others just color-blind enough to accept African-Americans as their new fellow countrymen, and still others adopted racist views.  The story of German officers in the USCT is an important facet of the history of race relations between immigrants and African-Americans in the 19th  century.

Apart from explaining how many German-Americans reflected on issues such as emancipation or the Union, Öfele also raises contemporary questions about national and ethnic identity and assimilation of minorities in white societies.  The USCT substantially contributed to many Union victories and helped shape relationships between whites and blacks in the army for many decades to come.  It also offered new possibilities for advancement for foreigners who, owing to nativist tensions, were often barred from promotion in the volunteer forces. 

Drawing mainly on primary sources and personal documents including letters, diaries, memoirs, and military service and pension records, Öfele provides a new perspective on the role of German-Americans in the Civil War and the reasons for and consequences of their decision to join the minority corps of the Union Army.

Martin Öfele is assistant professor of American history at the University of Munich and the author of four books on the U.S. Civil War published in Germany.

Review:

"The first work on foreign officers in the U.S. Colored Troops deals extensively with the relationship between black soldiers and white officers in these units.... An important contribution to the history of the Civil War and the issue of 'what they fought for, ' of the political and ideological stance of German ethnics, and of the history of black Americans in the era of emancipation."

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