Civil War Citizens: Race, Ethnicity, and Identity in America’s Bloodiest Conflict

Civil War Citizens:

At its core, the Civil War was a conflict over the meaning of citizenship. Most famously, it became a struggle over whether or not to grant rights to a group that stood outside the pale of civil-society: African Americans. But other groups–namely Jews, Germans, the Irish, and Native Americans–also became part of this struggle to exercise rights stripped from them by legislation, court rulings, and the prejudices that defined the age.

Grounded in extensive research by experts in their respective fields, Civil War Citizens is the first volume to collectively analyze the wartime experiences of those who lived outside the dominant white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant citizenry of nineteenth-century America. The essays examine the momentous decisions made by these communities in the face of war, their desire for full citizenship, the complex loyalties that shaped their actions, and the inspiring and heartbreaking results of their choices– choices that still echo through the United States today.

Contributors: Stephen D. Engle, William McKee Evans, David T. Gleeson, Andrea Mehrländer, Joseph P. Reidy, Robert N. Rosen, and Susannah J. Ural.


Civil War Citizens offers a fascinating, textured, and often highly nuanced glimpse into forgotten nineteenth-century worlds and constituencies and in doing so brings to the forefront the critical issues of multiple loyalties, citizenship, and ethnicity.”

-Cheryl A. Wells, Journal of Southern History

Civil War Citizens is an excellent step in exploring innovative ways to look at the wartime service of a large and diverse portion of America’s population. And, as the authors show, there are many leads to pursue.”

-Kevin Conley Ruffner, Journal of American History

“The illuminating essays in Civil War Citizens capture the view from below, where immigrants and other non‒whites confronted an array of confusing loyalties, often in conflict, always changing, and never clear cut in their meaning. This superb collection reveals that their identity as outsiders did not prescribe a united or single course of action. Civil War Citizens is an eye‒opening book, for it shows how people who existed on the political periphery were forced to rework their self‒understandings as individuals and as a collective group while also being denied their place in the nation that they were fighting and dying for.”

-Peter S. Carmichael, author of The Last Generation: Young Virginians in Peace, War, and Reunion

“…this book is the first attempt to incorporate such a wide variety of groups into a single volume and the overall content will certainly be of use to historians of immigration and ethnicity during the Civil War era.”


Civil War Citizens is a collection of seven essays examining the wartime experiences of groups who lived outside the white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant mainstream of mid-nineteenth century America . . . taken together, they constitute the best collection of essays on this subject available.”

-Lawrence Frederick Kohl, Civil War Book Review


Civil War Citizens adds a new dimension to our understanding of the war by offering a window into the complex exchange between ethnic and national identity. The stories told here should have special resonance for our increasingly diverse society as it continues to debate the contours of citizenship and belonging. By showing how immigrants as well as native‒born Americans struggled over the meaning of democracy, freedom, and slavery, the essays also connect American history to the same debates going on around the world.”

-Aaron Sheehan‒Dean, author of Why Confederates Fought: Family and Nation in Civil War Virginia


“In the Union and the Confederacy, in the armed forces and on the home front, the Civil War caused people of different races and ethnicities to interact in new ways. The well‒written, well‒researched essays in this important new book offer a fine‒grained narrative about the experiences of different ethnic groups during the Civil War. The essays also probe, in provocative ways, the intersection between military service and the call by different ethnic groups for fuller inclusion and citizenship. This book is not only a fascinating read, it makes a real contribution to the study of ethnic groups during the Civil War era.”

-Christian G. Samito, author of Becoming American Under Fire: Irish Americans, Africans Americans, and the Politics of Citizenship During the Civil War Era

“In 1860, 15 percent of the American population consisted of immigrants and nonwhites, and Civil War Citizens recovers part of their experience. The anthology of seven essays about underrepresented groups focuses on how the experience of war was both like and unlike the broader Union and Confederate experiences . . . Taken together, these works succeed in challenging readers to expand interpretations of antebellum race relations and of Civil War era identity.”

-Bonnie Laughlin-Schultz, H-Net Reviews

This entry was posted in Publications. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *