The Civil War

For minorities, as for other Americans, the Civil War was
an opportunity to prove their valor and loyalty. Among the first
mustered into the Union Army were a De Kalb regiment of German
American clerks, the Garibakdi Guards made up of Italian
Americans, a "Polish Legion," and hundreds of Irish American
youths form Boston and New York. But in Ohio and Washington,
D.C., African American volunteers were turned away from
recruiting stations and told, "This is a white man\'s war." Some
citizens questioned the loyalty of immigrants who lived in
crowded city tenements until an Italian American from Brooklyn
turned that around. In the New York Senate, Democrat Francis
Spinola had been a vigorous foe of Republican policies and
Lincoln. But now he swore his loyalty with stirring words, "This
is my flag, which I will follow and defend." This speech gave
great assurance that the masses in the great cities were devoted
to the Union and ready to enlist for its defense.
More than 400,000 European immigrants fought for the
Union, including more than 170,00 Germans and more than 150,00
Irish. Many saw their services as a proud sacrifice. The first
officer to die for the Union was Captain Constatin Blandowski,
one of many immigrants who earlier had fought for freedom in
Europe and then joined Lincoln\'s army. Born in Upper Silesia and
trained at Dresden, Germany, he was a veteran of democratic
struggles - a Polish revolt at Krakow, the Polish Legion\'s
battles against Austria, and the Hungarian fight for
independence. Some nationalities contributed more than their
share of Union soldiers.
Some immigrants earned the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Italian American officer Louis di Cesnola, was the Colonel of
the 4th Cavalry Regiment. At Aldie, Virginia, in 1863, he earned
the Medal of Honor and was appointed a general. He charged
unarmed at the foe, read his citation, "rallied his men ...until
desperately wounded and taken prisoner in action." In 1879
Cesnola became director of New York\'s Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The museum then became, wrote a critic, "a monument to his
energy, enterprise, and rare executive skill."
Italian American privates also won the Medal of Honor.
Joseph Sova of the 8th Cavalry earned it for capturing the
Confederate flag at Appomattox. Private Orlando Caruana of the
51st Infantry won it at Newburn, North Carolina. With bullets
whizzing past him, he saved wounded men and rescued the U.S.
As 1865 came on, the feel of victory was in the Northern
air. And so the Civil War was over. Yet even the ending of the
war did not bring real peace. On Good Friday, April 14, 11 days
after Union troops had entered Richmond, an actor named John
Wilkes Booth assassinated Lincoln as the President watched a play
from his box in Ford\'s Theater, Washington, D.C. The one man who
might have brought about a just peace was dead.
The Civil War had solved some old problems for the United
States. But it created some new problems as well. But many of
the problems created by the Civil War have been solved. Towns
have been rebuilt, new industries flourish, and new schools have
been erected. Most of the damage of war has been long repaired.
North and South both enjoy prosperity. But many of the human
problems still remain.