Anti-Immigrant Prejudice in the Union Army

February 7, 1864/2014
Volume 5, Issue 6 (174 Issues Since 15 October 2010)

Anti-Immigrant Prejudice in the Union Army

On February 6, 1864, after engaging the enemy in northern Virginia, Major Henry Livermore Abbott of the 20th Massachusetts wrote to his mother about the foray, displaying a not uncommon contempt for foreigners who had been drafted into the Union Army:

“It was a very small affair as far as fighting was concerned. We lost only a couple hundred men I believe, & a few officers. . . One regiment (a rare thing to say of any in this army now) behaved disgracefully — the ‘Garibaldi Guard,’ a beastly set of Dutch boors, Maccaronis, & Frogratecs, in short the rag tag & bobtail of all creation, little short beastly fellows with big beards & more stupid than it is possible for an American who has never seen them to conceive of. It is a rule in this army that the more foreign a regiment is, the more cowardly it is . . .”

– Submitted by Bill Halainen, Milford, PA


From Fallen Leaves: The Civil War Letter of Major Henry Livermore Abbott, published by Kent State University Press.

Union Soldier Re-Enlists Because Nearly Everyone Else Did, Tells Friend in Vermont to Make Lots of Maple Sugar for Pancakes

Private Proctor Swallow

Private Proctor Swallow

February 15, 1864. While in Barrancas, Florida, Private Proctor Swallow of Vermont, wrote a friend back  home: “When I wrote you [yesterday], I did not think I would Enlist again but the Company have nearly all Enlisted and I did not want to be the last one   I have Considered the matter over and think it is the best thing I can do   if the War is over in a year it is the best thing to do   if it should last 3 years I should be back again   we shall be at Home some time this year on a Furlough   I presume it will be in June  July or Aug   besides . . . Mother could not be any better off if I was at Home than she is now   I hear that the President has called for 500,000 more men   if he gets them I think the south cannot stand it a great while longer   I hope you will be so luck as not to be Drafted   . . . make a  good lot of maple Suggar and grow some Buckwheat so I can have some Pancakes when I get Home   give my love to mother and the children   write soon   good bye”

– Submitted by Vermont Humanities Council executive director Peter A. Gilbert


Tuf as a Boiled Owl, The Civil War Letters of Proctor Swallow, 7th Vermont Volunteer Regiment, (2006) Kenena Hansen Spalding, ed. p. 109.

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Filed under Civil War Book of Days: 1864

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