An Equal Right to Die for One’s Country

African Americans and Immigrants

Authored by: Kevin D. Butler

The Routledge Handbook of American Military and Diplomatic History

Print publication date:  August  2014
Online publication date:  September  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415533805
eBook ISBN: 9781315817347
Adobe ISBN: 9781317813354


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The participation of immigrants and African Americans during the Civil War helped both sides to alleviate their military manpower shortages. Because of its much smaller population the South felt the shortage more acutely than the North. But after the war dragged on much longer than anyone had expected when the fighting started, even states in the North had difficulty meeting their quota of volunteers. Therefore immigrant and African American contributions would play a major role in determining the outcome of the war. Their involvement also justified their demands for citizenship, recognition, and civil rights. Immigrants believed that fighting for their adopted homeland would demonstrate their loyalty to their section and commitment to its ideology and interpretation of Americanism and so affirm their American status. Immigrants and blacks believed that fighting for their country proved their fitness for citizenship. Both groups’ Union service expanded the parameters of American citizenship and its national character. Immigrants who served the Confederacy found that their service and embrace of the “Lost Cause” helped them gain the acceptance of white Southerners after the war.

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