THE PAST STARES BACK…(Found in the Connection: Rattling Loose End #134)

…From the pages of a book:

The Eleventh Corps had an unenviable reputation in both armies. It was preponderantly German, made up mainly of immigrants who had fled their mother country during the uprisings of 1848, and who were drawn to the Federal cause by their leaders, notably Benker, Schurz, and Franz Sigel. Being chiefly artisans, most of them had settled in the North. Their ardor for the cause could not be expected to equal that of soldiers possessing an American heritage. Their inability to speak English caused Confederates to believe they were mercenaries like the Hessians of the Revolutionary War. Antiforeign sentiment was still rampant at the outbreak of the war because the heavy immigration  had depressed wages in the 1850s and crowded the slum areas of Northern cities. The antipathy had its expression in a wave of nativism and, politically, the Know-Nothing Party, which had made substantial headway for a time in the decade before the war.

(High Tide at Gettysburg: The Campaign in Pennsylvania, Glenn Tucker, 1958)

That quote is from pages 124-125 of my edition. The battle is just being joined. Thus far, Tucker’s history has offered dozens of similarly concise descriptions of the Federal and Confederate units converging on the southern Pennsylvania farmland in the summer of 1863, and the matrix of political, military and economic considerations that brought them there. I hope he does as well by the battle itself, because so far it is the best kind of history….the kind that respects how little things change underneath, irrespective of how obsessed we are with the latest, newest and shiniest surfaces.

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