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Foreign enlistment in Union Forces (Civil War)

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  • Maj. Gen. Carl Christian Schurz, USA (1829 - 1906)
    Carl Christian Schurz was a German revolutionary, American statesman and reformer, and Union Army General in the American Civil War. He was also an accomplished journalist, newspaper editor and orato...
  • Major General Franz Sigel (USA) (1824 - 1902)
    Franz Sigel (November 18, 1824 – August 21, 1902) was a German military officer, revolutionist and immigrant to the United States who was a teacher, newspaperman, politician, and served as a Union ma...

Union enlistment

Although its largest foreign contingents were made up of Irish and German-Americans, over 60,000 Canadian and British volunteers served in the Union Army. Regiments such as the 79th New York Infantry Highlanders, originally formed in the 1850s, consisted completely of Scottish immigrants before accepting Irish, English and others into its ranks during the early years of the war. As the war continued, volunteers including Frenchman, Hungarians, Scandinavians, Mexicans and others (including a small number from Asia) would eventually enlist in Union service.

Communication difficulties, especially in Union regiments, were a constant problem in divisions made up of varied nationalities including volunteers from Ireland, Italy, Germany, Poland and other European countries. One regiment in particular was made up of both officers and soldiers from 15 different nations and the commanding officer's orders having to be passed down through seven different languages. Major General Franz Sigel had his orders translated from his native German, to Hungarian for his officers, then to English for the rest of his command and finally to German again when Sigel received reports.

See also

  • American Civil War
  • African-Americans in the Civil War
  • Andrew Cowan (soldier)
  • German-Americans in the Civil War
  • Hispanic Americans in the American Civil War
  • Irish-Americans in the American Civil War
  • Irish military diaspora
  • Italian Americans in the Civil War
  • Military history of Jewish Americans
  • Linedecker, Clifford L., ed. Civil War, A-Z: The Complete Handbook of America's Bloodiest Conflict. New York: Ballantine Books, 2002. ISBN 0-89141-878-4

Further reading

  • Early, Curtis A. and Gloria J. Early. Ohio Confederate Connection: Facts You May Not Know about the Civil War. Bloomington, IN: iUniverse, 2010. ISBN 9781450273732 Despite the title, this book does contain information on foreign-born Confederates.
  • Mahin, Dean B. The Blessed Place of Freedom: Europeans in Civil War America. Dulles, Virginia: Brassey's Inc., 2003. ISBN 1-57488-523-5
  • Association to commemorate the Chinese serving in the American Civil War
  • The Britons who died for the Stars and Stripes: How thousands of volunteers gave their lives in America's Civil War
  • The Blue, the Gray and the Chinese: American Civil War Participants of Chinese Descent
  • “Diversity In The Ranks: Foreign-Born Soldiers (And More) At Gettysburg”
  • Foreign Soldiers in the American Civil War by Andy Waskie