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Melting Pot Soldiers: The Union Ethnic Regiments (North's Civil War) [Paperback]

by William L. Burton
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

January 1, 1998 0823218287 978-0823218288 2
Melting Pot Soldiers is the story of the way immigrants responded to the drama of the Civil War. When the war began in 1861, there were, in most states in the North (primarily from Western Europe), large populations of immigrants whose leaders were active in American politics at the local, state, and national levels. Just as native-born Americans, both individually and collectively, reacted to war, so did these newcomers. A charicteristic feature of the formation of the Union armies was the role played by politicians in the recruitment of the regiment, the basic unit of the army. Ethnic politicians (and a few were women!) like their native-born counterparts, actively recruited young men into regiments- in this case regiments based upon the country of origin of the recruits. There were dozens of such regiments, mostly German and Irish, but also a Scandinavian unit, a polygot outfit, and there was an attempt to form a Scottish regiment. AS the war progressed and casualties mounted, these regiments gradually lost their ethnic composition. Ethnic entreprenuers were the key figures in the organization of these regiments, and such men ordinarily intended to parlay their military service into a post-war political career. Burton examines the impact ethnic entreprenuers had during the war, both by their key role in the organization of their regiments and by their post-war political careers.

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Melting Pot Soldiers: The Union Ethnic Regiments (North's Civil War) + The Harp and the Eagle: Irish-American Volunteers and the Union Army, 1861-1865
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

William L. Burton is Professor of History at Western Illinois University.

Product Details

  • Series: North's Civil War (Book 4)
  • Paperback: 282 pages
  • Publisher: Fordham University Press; 2 edition (January 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0823218287
  • ISBN-13: 978-0823218288
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,689,181 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Many people assume that the tale of immigrants to this country are often harassed and discriminated against solely by "Native" Americans until they assimilate, hence the "melting pot" analogy. William L. Burton sets out to debunk such a black and white approach to the immigrant population of the United States during the Civil War period. He does so within a framework of the Union ethnic regiments raised during the war. The author points out that much of the discrimination of certain ethnic groups was by other ethnic groups, rather than by native-born Americans. The story of these ethnic regiments was also largely a story of political and religious scheming, personal advancement, and to further the reputation one's own ethnic group as patriotic and loyal Americans. As the war progressed, many ethnic regiments lost their ethnic identities as conscription and lack of ethnic volunteers caused these regiments to become more and more like any other Union regiment. The experiences of the two main ethnic groups, the Germans an the Irish, are compared and contrasted throughout the book, with other groups such as the Scandinavians, the English, the Scotch, the Italians, the French, and others are handled as well.

Burton believes that the political parties of Civil War America embraced rather than discriminated against ethnics. The Know-Nothings and other anti-foreign and anti-immigrant groups were dying out by the time the Civil War started in 1861. In addition, political parties were happy to have famous foreigners such as the German Carl Schurz and the Irishmen Michael Corcoran and James Mulligan. These men tried to align their countrymen with whatever political party they were affiliated with. The Irish tended to be overwhelmingly Catholic and loyal to the Democratic Party.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Union Army's Universal Soldiers September 22, 2005
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a very good and highly readable overview of the various "ethnic" regiments that made up the Union forces during the Civil War. From funny to heartbreaking to admirable, the stunning variety of soldiers that entered the Union armies is fascinating. Some regiments were specifically formed to take in ethinc soldiers of a certain nationality but when few recruits of that group joined they took in all comers. The ethinic makeup of the Union forces was often times as colorfull as their wide variety of uniforms.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As advertised February 27, 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Melting Pot . . . intelligent and well researched tome about the involvement of ethnic Americans in the Civil War.
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