Author Ella Lonn writes that “The [German] Forty-Eighters, who came to control the powerful German-American press, were mostly stanch crusaders who would not yield an inch on what they regarded as a matter of principle.” Many of them were radical reformers, political idealists, social revolutionaries and religious skeptics determined to remake the world, and European correspondent Edward Dicey reported on their influence in America in his 1863 “Spectator of America.” They knew little or nothing of America’s founding principles and were continuing their socialist revolution on these shores.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org
Foreigners Mercenaries Invade the South
“[As] soon as we left Maryland for [western] Virginia, the scene changed. Here, for the first time in the States, I saw the symptoms of squalid, Old World poverty. Miserable wooden shanty hovels, broken windows stuffed with rags, and dirty children playing together with the pigs on the dung heaps before the doors, gave an Irish air of decay to the few scattered villages through which the railroad passed.
Our train, owing to the necessity of proceeding with extreme caution during the night, through fear of the obstructions which Secessionist sympathizers might have laid across the line . . . our progress to the end was a dismal and dreary one.
Still, Wheeling is a go-ahead place, in its way, for a Southern city, and has proved loyal to the Union. It will be the capital of the new State of Western Virginia, if it ever succeeds in establishing its independence; and it is the headquarters of the emancipation party in the State, probably because its German population is considerable.
General John Fremont had his headquarters here, when in command of the mountain district, and the town was, therefore, filled with foreign officers. A crowd of new arrivals [included] my old acquaintance, Major, Colonel, General, or whatever his rank may now be, Von Traubenfass. My friend is a mystery to me, as to everyone else. He has served, of course, in the Spanish legion – in the wars of the Rio Grande – in the Schleswig-Holstein campaign. He has been in the service of half a dozen Indian princes, and has a perfect galaxy of orders from deposed potentates.
When I met him last, twelve months before, he was a general unattached in the Garibaldian army, and received a very handsome salary for his unknown services. Now, he was an instructor of cavalry. What nation he belongs to, who he has been, where he comes from, or what his age is, are all questions I have asked in vain.
Of Cincinnati . . . what struck me most was the German air of the place and people. It was hard, strolling through the streets, to realize that you were not in some city of the old German Vaterland. [One noticed] the number of German names – Hartmans, Meyers, Schmidt, and so on – written above the shop-doors. A sluggish canal runs through the town [and] called “Ueber dem Rhein.” Here, across the “Rhine,” the Germans have brought their fatherland with them.
With many, too, of the younger generation, who had probably been born in the New World, the placid expression of the German face was already changed for the sharp anxious look so universal to the native-born American. The notion is, that the heavy taxation which must follow this war for years will stop the German emigration.
(Spectator of America, A Classic Document About Lincoln and Civil War America by a Foreign Correspondent (1863), Edward Dicey, Herbert Mitgang, editor, UGA Press, 1989, excerpts, pp. 164, 169-171)