- Editor’s Note
As we enter the fifth year of publication of the Journal of the Civil War Era, it remains rewarding to showcase vibrant new work. We may, in fact, be in a time of increased output on many fronts as scholars push their inquiry into new directions—sometimes by going back over what may seem like familiar ground. The research articles in this issue revisit the ethnic dimension of the Civil War era, specifically German Americans and their part in not only the war but also in American life. While ethnic studies follow in a long-established tradition, the following articles bring fresh questions to the subject and reflect the perspectives of research conducted during a moment of increased awareness of the war and society in a wider world.
Opening the volume year, Andrew Zimmerman pinpoints the revolutionary ideals that informed certain of the Civil War officers transplanted from Germany. Using their European experiences, generals such as Franz Sigel waged a war for the transformation of property relations (in this case, slavery) from very early in the conflict. Zimmerman thus leads readers on a journey that begins on the Rhine and ends on the Mississippi. Next, Mischa Honeck analyzes how manhood and womanhood factored into how ethnic Americans, particularly Germans, served the Union. Honeck argues that gender values provided for German American males a more instrumental motivation than did ideology for fighting for a country that did not always welcome them wholeheartedly. Following him, Alison Clark Efford reveals how German Americans in the Midwest began adopting the New Departure—or the acceptance of black suffrage—even earlier than Anglo-Americans. The finding complicates the notion that a visceral racism served as the primary element in Democratic thought as these German Americans rejected direct references to white supremacy in political campaigns. The final research article belongs to Friederike Baer, who examines the murder trial of Paul Schoeppe, a physician accused of killing one of his patients. This cause célèbre, which captured the attention of the nation, also demonstrated that nativism had not died in the 1850s with the demise of the American Party but had survived the Civil War.
Rounding out the issue is a forum organized by David M. Prior, who tapped five historians to discuss how to bring the framework of the war in a broader world into the classroom. They engaged in a lively sharing of [End Page 1] ideas on the kinds of themes that have worked for them and the texts that they have used. This feature provides a nice complement to the research articles. We hope instructors will find the suggestions raised by the discussants to be of practical use with their students. [End Page 2]