Perspectives in Military History Lecture at USAHEC

The U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center (USAHEC) is pleased to announce the next Perspectives in Military History Lecture.

The U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center (USAHEC) is pleased to announce the next Perspectives in Military History Lecture.  Dr. Christian B. Keller will present a lecture entitled, “Flying Dutchmen and Drunken Irishmen: The Myths and Realities of Ethnic Civil War Soldiers,” on April 18, 2013 (Thursday) at 7:15 p.m. in USAHEC’s Visitor and Education Center.  This lecture is free and open to the public, and USAHEC’s main exhibit, "The Soldier Experience," will be open beforehand.

This talk, based on primary source research in both English- and German-language sources, will debunk some cherished myths, question others, and raise some new questions about the role of ethnic Soldiers in the war.  During the American Civil War, German- and Irish-American Soldiers fought with gallantry for both the Union and the Confederacy for a variety of reasons and comprised a large percentage of the Union armies.  However, recent scholarship has shown that ethnic enthusiasm for both causes waxed and waned throughout the conflict, a fact determined largely by perceptions of the foreign-born by Anglo-Americans.  These perceptions, ranging from the stereotypes of the “drunken Irishman” to the “flying Dutchman,” were primarily caused by events on the battlefield, and in some cases, by political developments to which northern and southern ethnics strongly responded.  By the end of the war, the actual contributions of both sides’ ethnic Soldiers became clouded by myth, misconception, and outright prejudice.  Inaccurate assessments, created primarily by non-ethnic northerners, thus set the foundation for over a century of incomplete and erroneous scholarship. 

Dr. Keller is a Professor of History in the Department of National Security and Strategy at the U.S. Army War College.  Previously, he served as Professor of Military History for five and a half years at the Army Command and General Staff College, Ft. Belvoir, VA, and has taught at numerous civilian institutions, including Shippensburg University, Gettysburg College, and Dickinson College.  In 2001-2002, he was a Fulbright Professor of American History at the University of Jena, Germany.  Along with many scholarly articles focusing on the ethnic experience in the Civil War, he is the author of Chancellorsville and the Germans: Nativism, Ethnicity, and Civil War Memory (Fordham, 2007) and co-author of Damn Dutch:  Pennsylvania Germans at Gettysburg (Stackpole, 2004). 

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