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Chancellorsville and the Germans: Nativism, Ethnicity, and Civil War Memory (North's Civil War) [Hardcover]

Christian B. Keller
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 15, 2007 0823226506 978-0823226504 0
Often called Lee's greatest triumph, the battle of Chancellorsville decimated the Union Eleventh Corps, composed of large numbers of German-speaking volunteers. Poorly deployed, the unit was routed by StonewallJackson and became the scapegoat for the Northern defeat, blamed by many on the flightof German immigrant troops. The impact on America's large German community was devastating. But there is much more to the story than that. Drawing for the first time on German-language newspapers, soldiers' letters, memoirs, and regimental records, Christian Keller reconstructs the battle and its aftermath from the German-American perspective, military and civilian. He offers a fascinating window into a misunderstood past, one where the German soldiers' valor has been either minimized or dismissed as cowardly. He critically analyzes the performance of the German regiments and documents the impact of nativism on Anglo-American and German-American reactions-and on German self-perceptions as patriots and Americans. For German-Americans, the ghost of Chancellorsville lingered long, and Keller traces its effects not only on ethnic identity, but also on the dynamics of inclusion andassimilation in American life.

Editorial Reviews


"...German American studies, which flourished a century ago and were nearly moribund fifty years later, flourish once again."-Robert W. Frizzell, Journal of American Ethnic History

"Keller has added a highly valuable and much-needed revisionist work to Civil War historiography and to the study of ethnicity in nineteenth-century America."-The Journal of Southern History

"A truly groundbreaking work of research and analysis."-Civil War Books & Authors

"Keller's finely-crafted study offers a wealth of insights into the Civil War . . ."-Civil War Book Review

". . . Superbly-written and detailed . . . Keller outlines with a clarity which few have done before him . . ."-Defense and Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy

"Chancellorsville and the Germans is an important corrective to the prejudiced charges against the 11th Corps and the Germans in the Battle of Chancellorsville. Showing by exhaustive research in primary sources that these accusations were unwarranted, he has finally laid to rest misinformation about the battle and the German-Americans."-Hans Trefousse

About the Author

CHRISTIAN B. KELLER is Associate Professor of Military History at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Ft. Belvoir, Virginia. He is co-author of Damn Dutch: Pennsylvania Germans.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 244 pages
  • Publisher: Fordham University Press (June 15, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0823226506
  • ISBN-13: 978-0823226504
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,717,635 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Christian B. Keller. Chancellorsville and the Germans: Nativism, Ethnicity, and Civil War Memory. New York: Fordham University Press; First Edition (May 15, 2007). 244 pp., 4 maps, notes, index. ISBN: 978-0823226504 $65.00 (Hardcover w/DJ).

How serious a blow was the Battle of Chancellorsville to the collective German-American psyche? Christian B. Keller attempts to answer precisely this question in Chancellorsville and the Germans: Nativism, Ethnicity, and Civil War Memory. Pulling from German-language newspapers and looking at his subject from a German-American viewpoint, Keller argues somewhat persuasively that not only did the rout of the "German" XI Corps at Chancellorsville severely damage German-American support for the Northern war effort, it also significantly delayed assimilation of this ethnic group into mainstream American culture. In addition, the attacks on German-American units, specifically the XI Corps, served as a unifying force for a hitherto disparate German-American presence in the United States.

German-Americans flocked to support their adopted homeland in 1861, eventually composing close to one fourth of all soldiers who fought in the Union army. Many of these men formed companies and regiments composed almost entirely of German-Americans. Some of these units played a large role in keeping Missouri in the Union in 1861 and fought well at First Bull Run and in many western battles. Many German-Americans, including Franz Sigel and Carl Schurz, assumed roles as Union generals. Blenker's all-German Division was treated rather badly in March 1862 when it was forced to trek through the mountains of western Virginia on the way to Charles Fremont's aptly-named "Mountain Department".
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
"Chancellorsville And The Germans: Nativism, Ethnicity, And Civil War Memory" by Christian B. Keller (Associate Professor of Military History, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Ft. Belvoir, Virginia) is a seminal contribution to the growing library of Civil War literature. The focus in on the decimation of the Union's Eleventh Corps (composed of large numbers of German-speaking volunteers) by General Robert E. Lee's forces at what became known as the Battle of Chancellorsville. Poorly deployed, the unit was overwhelmed by the Confederate calvary and foot troops led by Stonewall Jackson. The unit blamed for the unexpected Northern defeat at Confederate hands. The impact on America's large German immigrant community was nothing short of devastating. Professor Keller draws upon German-language newspapers of the period, soldiers' letters, memoirs, and regimental records to reconstruct the battle and its aftermath from both military and civilian German-American perspectives and in doing so reveals the valor of the German troops. An impressively informative and very highly recommended work of original scholarship, "Chancellorsville And The Germans" traces the effects of the conflict and its aftermath on the dynamics of German immigrant inclusion and assimilation in American life. No academic library American Civil War reference collection can be considered complete or comprehensive without the inclusion of Professor Keller's "Chancellorsville And The Germans". Also very strongly recommended for Civil War reference collections and supplemental reading lists is Professor Keller's earlier work, "Damn Dutch: Pennsylvania Germans at Gettysburg".
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5 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Be advised... August 25, 2007
Be advised that this book is almost entirely about public opinion in the German-American community. There is one chapter that contains a good, detailed narrative of the battle but the rest of the book concerns the post-battle controversy that surrounded the Eleventh Corps' performance at Chancellorsville. That material is good for deep background but the book does not have the history of the Corps itself that I hoped for. And to get on my soap box for a moment -- $65 is an exorbitant price for a book that contains just 160 pages of narrative. Shame on its publisher.
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