Date of Award

Spring 2019

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chair

Susannah J. Ural

Committee Chair School


Committee Member 2

Andrew Wiest

Committee Member 2 School


Committee Member 3

Kyle Zelner

Committee Member 3 School



During the Civil War, Germans from the Greater St. Louis region enthusiastically volunteered for service in the Union Army and filled the companies of three regiments examined here: the 30th and 43rd Illinois and 12th Missouri Volunteer Infantry Regiments. This thesis argues that German-American soldiers serving in these regiments joined the army to save the Union and end slavery. Once mustered into service, they experienced less nativism within the Union Army of the Tennessee than Germans in the Union Army of the Potomac. In contrast to the predominantly German 43rd Illinois and 12th Missouri, the 30th Illinois was considered a native-born American regiment although 21 percent of the men identified as foreign born. This distinct ethnic makeup dispelled nativism from within the regiment, and allowed Germans to escape outside nativist prejudice. A result of St. Louis area German unit successes in the victorious Army of the Tennessee was their postwar acceptance of various Anglo-American cultural aspects.

Contemporary scholarship focuses overwhelmingly on German-American soldiers serving in the Army of the Potomac and inaccurately analyzes Midwestern German volunteers through Eastern Germans’ wartime experiences. This thesis warrants Western serving German-American soldiers their proper attention and studies them within the context of their home communities and army. It also offers a scholarly examination of the relationships between German and native-born American soldiers in an ethnically mixed unit which challenges the historiographical trend of solely studying German experiences in ethnic units. This thesis relies on extensive soldier letters and diaries, official documents, and newspaper articles.