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Yankee Dutchmen under Fire

Civil War Letters from the 82nd Illinois Infantry

Joseph R. Reinhart

Publication Year: 2013

Thousands of volumes of Civil War letters are available, but little more than a dozen contain collections written by native Germans fighting in this great American conflict. Yankee Dutchmen under Fire presents a fascinating collection of sixty-one letters written by immigrants who served in the 82nd Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment. The 82nd Illinois was one of the thirty or so predominantly “German Regiments” in the Union army, and one of only two Federal regiments containing a Jewish company. Fighting alongside the Germans was a company of Scandinavians, plus a scattering of immigrants from many other countries.

The letters span nearly three years of war and include firsthand accounts of major battles: Chancellorsville and Gettysburg in the East and Missionary Ridge, Resaca, New Hope Church, and Kolb’s Farm in the West. The soldiers of the 82nd Illinois also describe campaigning in East Tennessee, Sherman’s Atlanta campaign and his March to the Sea, and the Carolinas campaign (including the Battle of Bentonville).

The majority of the letters originally appeared in wartime issues of German American newspapers and kept the German community informed of the regiment’s marches, camps, battles, and casualties. Lt. (later Capt.) Rudolph Müller, an idealistic and highly critical commentator, wrote twenty-one of the twenty-nine private letters to his close friend and confidant Col. Friedrich Hecker. Müller cautioned the colonel not to make his letters public because they often contained highly critical comments about commanders, fellow officers, public figures, Anglo-Americans, and American society.

Besides providing details of military life and combat, the documents reveal how the German-born writers viewed the war, American officers and enlisted men, other immigrant soldiers, and the enemy. They shed light on the ethnic dimensions of the war, including ethnic identity, ethnic pride and prejudice, and ethnic solidarity, and they reflect the overarching political climate in which the war was fought. Yankee Dutchmen under Fire is a valuable addition to Civil War studies and will also be welcomed by those interested in ethnicity and immigration.

Published by: The Kent State University Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Series Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

Maps and Illustrations

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pp. ix-x


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pp. xi-xii

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A Note about Translation and Editing

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pp. xiii-xiv

The editor translated the following letters, except where noted, from German into English. The goal of the translation was to convey the meaning the letter writer intended and therefore is not an exact word-for-word translation...

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pp. 1-17

H istorians and other scholars of the american civil war largely over-looked its ethnic component for many decades af_ter the war, despite the fact that 25 percent of the Union’s more than two million fighting men were born outside of the United States.one.superior Fortunately, the number of books about im-migrants, especially Germans, in the civil war has increased greatly in the last The majority of the Union’s foreign-born soldiers were Germans or irish but ...

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1. Organization of the Regiment

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pp. 18-26

The letters and newspaper articles in this chapter were written during the organization of the 82nd Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment. They begin on July 22, 1862, and end on August 19, 1862. The regiment’s first recruits signed up in June, and in mid-July groups of recruits began assembling at Camp...

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2. Camp Butler

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pp. 27-49

To the editor of the Illinois Staats-Zeitung
Today I finally have time to send you a short description of our trip to Springfield and Camp Butler, and our local camp life. We left Chicago on the 19th of this month. On the way to Springfield we were held up for 6 hours because a freight train ran partway off the track. Therefore we only arrived here about noon on...

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3. Off to the Seat of War

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pp. 50-60

The Second Hecker Regiment marched from Camp Butler, Illinois, at 4:00 a.m. on November 3, 1862, and boarded a train at Springfield for Chicago. At 9:00 p.m. on November 4, a train crammed with Colonel Hecker’s troops chugged out of Chicago and headed east, reaching Cleveland, Ohio, at sunset. The train reached Dunkirk, New York, on the southeastern edge of Lake Erie...

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4. A New Year Begins

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pp. 61-66

The 82nd Illinois remained encamped near Aquia Creek, Virginia, until January 20, 1863, when it joined in Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside’s infamous “Mud March,” which was cancelled after three days due to impassable roads. The 82nd halted at Hartford Church until February 6, and then moved to Stafford Court House, where it remained with its corps until the start of the...

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5. The Battle of Chancellorsville

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pp. 67-83

On April 27, 1863, Major General Hooker began to launch a powerful force of more than 70,000 troops on a march that would swing behind Gen. Robert E. Lee’s 60,000-man army entrenched at Fredericksburg, while the First Corps and Sixth Corps, 40,000 troops under Maj. Gen. John Sedgwick, fixed Lee’s force at Fredericksburg. This maneuver required the Eleventh and...

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6. The Battle of Gettysburg

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pp. 84-98

After his army’s great victory at Chancellorsville, Gen. Robert E. Lee devised a plan to carry the war onto Northern soil. Lee’s main objective was to draw the Army of the Potomac from the line of the Rappahannock River and disrupt its plans for a summer campaign. Lee intended to engage the Yankee army in battle if a favorable opportunity presented itself, because only a military...

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7. After Gettysburg to Chattanooga

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pp. 99-108

With some exceptions, the Anglo-American press did not portray the retreat of the Eleventh Corps on July 1, 1862, in the negative manner that they did the Battle of Chancellorsville. Some even praised the corps’s soldiers for fighting bravely before being forced to retreat. German American editors praised their native landsmen’s contributions to the victory at Gettysburg...

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8. Whiteside, Tennessee

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pp. 109-114

Shortly after Colonel Hecker departed for Illinois on leave, 1st Lt. Rudolph Müller began writing the colonel to update him about what was happening in the regiment and to communicate details of battles and operations. The first four of his private letters appear below...

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9. The Beginning of the Atlanta Campaign

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pp. 115-132

By early May 1864, Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman had assembled most of his nearly 110,000-man grand army in and near Chattanooga and was waiting for Lieutenant General Grant’s orders to move against Gen. Joseph E. Johnston’s army. The Federal force comprised Maj. Gen. George Thomas’s Army of the Cumberland consisting of the Fourth, Fourteenth, and Twentieth...

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10. Kolb’s Farm to Atlanta

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pp. 133-151

As General Sherman moved his three armies toward the Western and Atlantic Railroad in early June 1864, Joe Johnston moved his army in the same direction until the night of June 4, when he retreated southeast to protect the railroad. By June 19 Johnston had fallen back to Kennesaw Mountain and established a strongly entrenched arc-shaped line, with Hood’s corps shielding...

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11. Atlanta Is Ours

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pp. 152-165

The 82nd Illinois Regiment remained behind its works on the north side of the Chattahoochee River until August 25, 1864, enduring “the daily monotony of picket and artillery firing,” while “sharpshooters kept doing their annoying work.” On the 25th the regiment advanced to the Chattahoochee Bridge and built entrenchments for its entire brigade and then encamped. News arrived on September...

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12. The March to the Sea

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pp. 166-173

Realizing that he could neither recapture Atlanta nor defeat Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman’s Federal army, Gen. John Bell Hood moved his Army of Tennessee farther into Alabama on October 17, 1864, to prepare to invade Tennessee. Sherman sent the Fourth and Twenty-third Corps north to oppose this invasion, and on November 15, 1864, commenced his famous March to the...

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13. The Carolinas Campaign to Fayetteville, North Carolina

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pp. 174-179

With Savannah in hand, Sherman replenished his supplies by sea before launching an invasion of the Carolinas with 60,000 troops. “The plan of the campaign” as historian John G. Barrett explains, “called for feints on both Augusta and Charleston and a march directly on Columbia and thence to Goldsboro, North Carolina, by way of Fayetteville on the Cape Fear River. Goldsboro...

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14. The Final Battles

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pp. 180-193

General Sherman reviewed his army on March 13 at Fayetteville and after this event the Twentieth Corps crossed the Cape Fear River on a pontoon bridge and halted four miles out toward Kyle’s Landing. The march resumed on March 15 but was stalled by Brig. Gen. William B. Taliaferro’s and Maj. Gen. Lafayette McLaws’s divisions of Lt. Gen. William J. Hardee’s corps and two divisions...

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pp. 194-202

Friedrich Hecker continued to engage in farming after his military career ended, became an active speaker in Republican circles, and wrote articles for German American newspapers. The talented orator wrote articles in favor of Ulysses S. Grant for the 1868 presidential election but did not go on the stump for him. Disappointed with Grant and his administration, “der Alte” joined the new...


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pp. 203-246

Bibliographic Essay

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pp. 247-250


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pp. 251-262

Back Cover

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p. 278-278

E-ISBN-13: 9781612777115
E-ISBN-10: 1612777112
Print-ISBN-13: 9781606351765

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2013

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • United States. Army. Illinois Infantry Regiment, 82nd (1862-1865).
  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Personal narratives.
  • Illinois -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Regimental histories.
  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Regimental histories
  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Participation, German American.
  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Participation, German.
  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Participation, Jewish.
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