Coequal Heirs: The Civil War, Memory, and German-American Identity, 1861-1914
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Upon the outbreak of the American Civil War, German-Americans took up arms in defense of their adopted country. The German-American community in 1861 was incredibly diverse, and notions of shared German identity were secondary to religious, regional, and other divisions. Although widely respected by Anglo-Americans because of a perception that they were well-suited for assimilation and enjoyed a generally high level of education and economic success, German-Americans were also marginalized by overriding nativist tendencies. In response to these challenges, German-American Civil War veterans constructed the image of a “freedom-loving German.” Mythologized as firm abolitionists and unwavering supporters of the Republican Party, this model took hold among many Germans as an ethnic identifier following the Civil War. This thesis examines the development of the freedom-loving German through experience of the 20th New York Infantry Regiment. After focusing on the stakes German-American soldiers attached to their service at the outset of the war, this thesis traces the development of a pluralistic brand of patriotism which German-Americans developed during the Gilded Age. This brand of patriotism was in constant dialogue with an emerging patriotic culture among all Americans, and was responsive to changes within the German-American community in the latter half of the nineteenth century. As Civil War veterans began to die off at a rapid rate, the National German-American Alliance took upon itself the responsibility of speaking for German America, and framed all of German-American history in terms which were developed by German-American Civil War veterans.
DescriptionHonors Thesis, Winner of the William T. Laprade Prize
CitationKaelin, Michael Jr (2015). Coequal Heirs: The Civil War, Memory, and German-American Identity, 1861-1914. Honors thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/10181.
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Rights for Collection: Undergraduate Honors Theses and Student papers