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Yankee Dutchmen Under Fire: Civil War Letters from the 82nd Illinois Infantry, by Joseph R. Reinhart, translator and editor

Kent, Oh.: Kent State University Press, 2013. Pp. xiv, 262. Illus., maps, notes., biblio., index. $45.00. ISBN: 1606351761.

The Civil War in the Words of the Men of the 82nd Illinois.

The 82nd Illinois, or the "2nd Hecker Regiment," was organized in October of 1862 from German immigrants and a company of Scandinavians, many of whom could barely speak English, but all of whom seem to have been inveterate letter writers.  Reinhart, who has done extensive work in the role of Germans in the Civil War, found material for this book in various depositories,  family collections, and local newspapers. 

In their letters the troops tell the personal side of soldiering, as they served in the Eleventh Corps during the “Mud March” and at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg in the East, and then went to the West for the Chattanooga and Atlanta campaigns, the March to the Sea, and the Carolina Campaign.  The men reveal themselves as dedicated to the Union cause, worried about their families, coping with combat and loss, much like the “American” troops who served alongside them.  But the letters also reveal that they were somewhat older than their “native born” comrades, more politically aware, and rather liberal.  The letters also reveal how their ethnic backgrounds affected their service and relations with their comrades, especially since German troops were often blamed for reverses.  

Offering insights into the lives and motivations of the immigrant volunteer, Yankee Dutchmen Under Fire is worthwhile reading not only for studens of the Civil War but for anyone interested in why men fight.

 

Yankee Dutchmen Under Fire is a volume in the Kent series “Civil War in the North”

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Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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