Book Review: Devotion to the Adopted Country: U.S. Immigrant Volunteers in the Mexican War


by Tyler V. Johnson

Columbia, Mo.: University of Missouri Press, 2012. Pp. xii, 168. Notes, biblio., index. $40.00. ISBN: 082621973X

Devotion to the Adopted Country looks at German and Irish Catholic immigrants, and the Church itself, responded to America’s war with Catholic Mexico, at a time of deep and often violent hostility toward Catholicism in the United States. 

Amidst widespread Protestant fears that they were intent on imposing “popery” on the country, and certain to want to sabotage the war with Mexico, individual Catholics and the Church itself as a whole supported the war effort.  This was in large measure to help assert their identity as Americans, and also fit within the larger struggle against nativism.  Johnson observes that Catholics generally served well and loyally, despite incidents of bias, and even violence, directed at them. In the course of his account, he addresses the services of several priests who accompanied the troops as unofficial chaplains, government policy confining the chaplaincy to Protestants (of a narrowly restricted group of denominations).  Johnson also looks at occasional untoward acts  by Catholics, notably the “San Patricios”, Irishmen who deserted to the Mexicans, but notes that they were important not because they were particularly numerous, but because of how they were used by the anti-Catholics (among them Lyman Beecher and Samuel Morse), to further their cause.

A valuable work, not only because of its importance to the history of the Mexican War and the experience of Catholic immigrants, but also in the present, as well, given hostility to Moslem-Americans at a time of war against some of their co-religionists.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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