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Civil War Citizens: Race, Ethnicity, and Identity in America's Bloodiest Conflict Paperback – November 22, 2010

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Editorial Reviews


"Civil War Citizens is a collection of seven essays examining the wartime experiences of groups who lived outside the white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant mainstream of mid-nineteenth century America . . . taken together, they constitute the best collection of essays on this subject available."
-Lawrence Frederick Kohl,Civil War Book Review

"In 1860, 15 percent of the American population consisted of immigrants and nonwhites, and Civil War Citizens recovers part of their experience. The anthology of seven essays about underrepresented groups focuses on how the experience of war was both like and unlike the broader Union and Confederate experiences . . . Taken together, these works succeed in challenging readers to expand interpretations of antebellum race relations and of Civil War era identity."
-Bonnie Laughlin-Schultz,H-Net Reviews

“The illuminating essays in Civil War Citizens capture the view from below, where immigrants and other non‒whites confronted an array of confusing loyalties, often in conflict, always changing, and never clear cut in their meaning. This superb collection reveals that their identity as outsiders did not prescribe a united or single course of action. Civil War Citizens is an eye‒opening book, for it shows how people who existed on the political periphery were forced to rework their self‒understandings as individuals and as a collective group while also being denied their place in the nation that they were fighting and dying for.”
-Peter S. Carmichael,author of The Last Generation: Young Virginians in Peace, War, and Reunion

"Civil War Citizens is an excellent step in exploring innovative ways to look at the wartime service of a large and diverse portion of America's population. And, as the authors show, there are many leads to pursue."-Kevin Conley Ruffner,Journal of American History

“In the Union and the Confederacy, in the armed forces and on the home front, the Civil War caused people of different races and ethnicities to interact in new ways. The well‒written, well‒researched essays in this important new book offer a fine‒grained narrative about the experiences of different ethnic groups during the Civil War. The essays also probe, in provocative ways, the intersection between military service and the call by different ethnic groups for fuller inclusion and citizenship. This book is not only a fascinating read, it makes a real contribution to the study of ethnic groups during the Civil War era.”
-Christian G. Samito,author of Becoming American Under Fire: Irish Americans, Africans Americans, and the Politics of Citizenship During the Civil War Era

Civil War Citizens adds a new dimension to our understanding of the war by offering a window into the complex exchange between ethnic and national identity. The stories told here should have special resonance for our increasingly diverse society as it continues to debate the contours of citizenship and belonging. By showing how immigrants as well as native‒born Americans struggled over the meaning of democracy, freedom, and slavery, the essays also connect American history to the same debates going on around the world.”
-Aaron Sheehan‒Dean,author of Why Confederates Fought: Family and Nation in Civil War Virginia

"...this book is the first attempt to incorporate such a wide variety of groups into a single volume and the overall content will certainly be of use to historians of immigration and ethnicity during the Civil War era." -JSTOR

"Civil War Citizens offers a fascinating, textured, and often highly nuanced glimpse into forgotten nineteenth-century worlds and constituencies and in doing so brings to the forefront the critical issues of multiple loyalties, citizenship, and ethnicity."-Cheryl A. Wells,Journal of Southern History

"useful overviews for undergraduate students or scholars seeking an introduction to each group's wartime experiences"-Journal of American Ethnic History

About the Author

Susannah J. Ural is Associate Professor of History at the University of Southern Mississippi and a Senior Fellow of the Center for the Study of War and Society. She is the author of The Harp and the Eagle: Irish-American Volunteers and the Union Army, 1861-1865 (NYU Press, 2006).


Product Details

  • Paperback: 252 pages
  • Publisher: NYU Press (November 22, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0814785700
  • ISBN-13: 978-0814785706
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,866,773 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By Patrick Young on September 13, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The seven essays in this collection look at the ways in which the Civil War determined the citizenship and identity of German, Irish, and Jewish immigrants, marginalized Native Americans as citizens, and incompletely "naturalized" freed slaves.

Germans made the largest contribution by an ethnic minority to winning the war for the Union. The 200,000 German-born troops outnumbered soldiers all of the other "minority" groups.

There were as many as 145 units in the Union Army composed entirely of German immigrants, units in which orders and reports were issued in German. The concept of America as a monolingual "English-Only" country was foreign to Lincoln's generation. Military and political leaders understood that loyal, brave, patriotic soldiers came from all backgrounds and spoke many languages.

New York, with 24, contributed the most German units to the war effort, but Missouri's 18 German units played a major role in keeping that slave state in the Union. German immigrants there fought from the outbreak of the war to keep the native-born Southern aristocracy of the state from controlling its allegiance.

The essays in Civil War Citizens are a bit uneven and incomplete, but the book makes a valuable contribution to the study of those on the margins of the Anglo-Saxon world in 1860s America. What comes through in all of the articles is the refutation of the notion that 19th Century America was a place of atomized individualism. All of these ethnic minorities dealt with the Federal and Confederate governments as communities, expecting recognition and favor in exchange for support of the war effort. Their successes and failures on the military and political battlefield helped set the stage for their positions after the war.
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