A German in the Yankee Fatherland: The Civil War Letters of Henry A. Kircher

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Kent State University Press, 1983 - German Americans - 169 pages
Fighting for the Union was, for Henry Kircher and his comrades in arms, fighting for "the Fatherland." They were German-speaking soldiers in the Northern Army, immigrants and sons of immigrants from the German communities of the Midwest. For them the Civil War was, among other things, a process of Americanization. This is one of the themes that emerge from the letters Kircher wrote home. The war introduced this shy young machinist from the German émigré community of Belleville, Illinois, to other parts of the nation, to a broader mix of Americans, to the national issues at stake. At the same time he was growing in maturity as the bitter reality of battle and the deaths of friends tempered the romantic patriotism that prompted his enlistment. When he was mustered out after four years, a double amputee, he was ready to take his place as a leader in the political and commercial life of his no longer exclusively German community. But the war itself is the primary topic of the letters. Written in the language in which he was most fluent and now translated for this publication, they are articulate, witty, and completely revealing. Kircher's view was broad: he wrote of the larger strategies, often accompanied by sketch maps in the margins, as well as of the personal experiences; of the politics of Army life as well as of his friends and their daily lives. He served in the ninth Illinois infantry, a German unit from Western Illinois, before entering the 12th Missouri, which consisted largely of German immigrants from St. Louis. He saw, and vividly described, action in campaigns in Arkansas at the long siege of Vicksburg, and at Chattanooga. Earl J. Hess has assembled these letters in careful translation and provided appropriate notes as well as introductory and concluding chapters to round out the biographical account. Connectives paragraphs bridge gaps in the narrative and supplement the letters with quotations from the diaries that Kircher kept in English. Photographs and maps round out the volume. - Jacket flap.

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