The Italian who went to America
Migrants: According to this map, America would have to speak German
"May the government of the people, by the people and for the people, not disappear from the earth." - American school children are still learning these words by heart. President Abraham Lincoln formulated it on November 18, 1863 at the inauguration of a military cemetery on the battlefield of Gettysburg, where the Union Army had broken the offensive force of the South. This Gettysburg Address became the rhetorical foundation for a second state establishment. If the USA referred to itself as a union of “nations” before the civil war, at the end of the war it was a “nation”.
When thousands of Americans re-enacted the Gettysburg slaughter on the historic battlefield in early July, symbolism was one of the main concerns. On July 4th, the national holiday, news of the victory reached Washington. On July 4, 2000 kilometers to the west, the southern fortress of Vicksburg on the Mississippi capitulated. "The Father of the Waters is flowing undisturbed into the sea again," announced Lincoln.
The regular celebrations in Vicksburg and Gettysburg hide the fact that the road to becoming a nation was not that easy. For one thing, the final victory over the breakaway south would not come until two years later. On the other hand, not only (federal) states but also members and descendants of many peoples fought against each other in this war with the greatest sacrifice that the USA has ever waged.
Indian tribes stood on both sides, more than 180,000 former African slaves fought in the Union Army, their XI. Corps, which Gettysburg had defended against southern attacks, was considered "Dutch", German, just as generals like Franz Sigel or Carl Schurz owed their general patents to their origin.
Twelve generations since the pilgrim fathers
In New York, shortly after Gettysburg, there was even an open uprising. 50,000 immigrants, most of them from Ireland, resisted their draft, massacred colored people (whom they saw as competitors for jobs) and marched through the city, pillaging. Regular military had to be used. Martin Scorsese created a cinematic monument to the “Draft Riots” in his film “Gangs of New York” (2002).
Unlike the nation states of Europe, the USA was and is a nation of immigrants. And most of them still know today where their families came from. After all, only twelve generations have passed since the Pilgrim Fathers set their feet on the promised land.
In the course of the 150th anniversary of the civil war, historians recently made the German contribution an issue again. The numbers prove it impressively. 23.4 percent of the Union Army were of German origin, specifically 516,000 men, of whom 210,000 were born in Germany.
While Sigel and the XI. Corps, especially with military failures, have found their place in American folklore, the numbers speak a different language: More than 80 percent of German-born US citizens opted for the north. This made them the largest ethnic group to take a stand against the slave-holding states. The historical roots go deep: the residents of Germantown (Pennsylvania), founded by Quakers and Mennonites from Krefeld, wrote the first protest against slavery as early as 1688.
The US census from 2000 paints an even clearer picture: More than 49.2 million of the 282 million Americans at the turn of the millennium (today there are around 312 million) state that they are of German descent. This makes them the largest immigrant group ever. Only 26.9 million US citizens can be traced back to genuinely English roots, which means that the former colonial rulers only come in fifth place, behind African-Americans (41.3 million), Irish (35.5 million) and Mexicans (31.79 Millions).
The Muhlenberg legend
Behind it are intricate developments - and myths. The most famous is the so-called Muhlenberg legend
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