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German-Americans and Civil War Politics: A Reconsideration of the Ethnocultural Thesis

From: Civil War History
Volume 37, Number 3, September 1991
pp. 232-246 | 10.1353/cwh.1991.0047

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

German-Americans and Civil War Politics:
A Reconsideration of the Ethnocultural Thesis
Walter D. Kamphoefner

Walter D. Kamphoefner teaches history at Texas A&M University. He has authored The Westfalians: From Germany to Missouri and coedited the forthcoming News from the Land of Freedom: German Immigrants Write Home. He is currently completing an anthology of German-American Civil War letters.


1. Lee Benson, The Concept of Jacksonian Democracy: New York as a Test Case (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1961), 165-207; Paul Kleppner, The Cross of Culture: A Social Analysis of Midwestern Politics, 1850-1900 (New York: Free Press, 1970); idem., The Third Electoral System, 1853-1892 (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1979); Richard Jensen, The Winning of the Midwest: Social and Political Conflict, 1888-1896 (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1971); Frederick C. Luebke, ed., Ethnic Voters and the Election of Lincoln (Lincoln: Univ. of Nebraska Press, 1971).

2. Donnal V. Smith, "The Influence of the Foreign-Born of the Northwest in the Election of 1860," in Ethnic Voters, ed. Luebke, 1-15.

3. Jensen, Winning of the Midwest, 59-62, 309-15.

4. James M. McPherson, Ordeal by Fire: The Civil War and Reconstruction (New York: Knopf, 1982), 19-22, 91; George H. Daniels, "Immigrant Vote in the 1860 Election: The Case of Iowa," in Ethnic Voters, ed. Luebke, 128. The dominant German newspaper in Lancaster Co., Der Volksfreund, had been solidly Whig and thereafter strongly Republican since that party's inception; Karl J. R. Arndt and May E. Olson, German-American Newspapers and Periodicals, 1732-1955 (Heidelberg: Quelle and Meyer, 1961), 539.

5. For example, a St. Louis Forty-eighter journal, the Anzeiger des Westens, argued in an August 15, 1858, article that such manifestations of progress as the steam engine, America's industries, and its growing foreign and domestic trade came about not as a result of Christianity but despite it.

6. Joseph Schafer, "Who Elected Lincoln?"; and Jay Monaghen, "Did Abraham Lincoln Receive the Illinois German Vote?" in Ethnic Voters, ed. Luebke, 46-61, 62-67; James M. Bergquist, "People and Politics in Transition: The Illinois Germans, 1850-1860," in Ethnic Voters, ed. Luebke, 196-226.

7. Andreas Dorpalen, "The German Element and the Issues of the Civil War," in Ethnic Voters, ed. Luebke, 68-91; see the electoral maps in McPherson, Ordeal by Fire, 97, 124; Walter Dean Burnham, Presidential Ballots, 1836-1892 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1955), 76, 81.

8. Kennedy's St. Louis City Directory, 1859, 1860; Joseph Michael White, "Religion and Community: Cincinnati Germans, 1814-1870" (Ph.D. diss., Notre Dame Univ., 1980), 47-52; Nora Faires, "The Evolution of Ethnicity: The German Community in Pittsburgh and Allegheny City, Pennsylvania, 1845-1885" (Ph.D. diss., Univ. of Pittsburgh, 1981), 422-39 and passim. This study did not enumerate the total membership in each church body, only that of its leading and usually earliest-founded congregation. David A. Gerber, The Making of an American Pluralism: Buffalo, New York, 1825-60 (Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press, 1989), 191-95.

9. William E. Gienapp, The Origins of the Republican Party, 1852-1856 (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1987), 163.

10. Jensen, Winning of the Midwest, 84-85; Souvenir of the One Hundredth Anniversary of the Founding of New Knoxville, Ohio (New Knoxville, Ohio: N.p., 1936), 37, 47-51. The first time in history the county went Republican was 1920.

11. Kate Everest Levi, "Geographical Origins of German Immigration to Wisconsin," Wisconsin Historical Society Collections 14 (1898):365-67; Jerome C. Arpke, Das Lippe-Detmolder Settlement in Wisconsin (Milwaukee, 1895); Schafer, "Who Elected Lincoln," 53; as late as the 1880s, Hermann, Wisconsin, still had a Democratic majority. Roger E. Wyman, "Wisconsin Ethnic Groups and the Election of 1890," Wisconsin Magazine of History 51 (Summer 1968): table 4. Gasconade County, Missouri, went Republican in 1860 and every presidential election thereafter through 1932. Burnham, Presidential Ballots, 198; E. E. Robinson, The Presidential Vote, 1896-1932 (Stanford: Stanford Univ. Press, 1947), 96. Bolware Township, with the largest concentration of Lippe-Detmolders, was the banner Republican township in 1860, holding its own with the freethinker center of Hermann, Missouri. Hermanner...