"Nothing to Fear from the Influence of Foreigners:" The Patriotism of Richmond's German-Americans during the Civil War
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Political allegiances within the German-American community were not static. They changed during the course of the war, largely under the influence of nativism. Nativists put into practice a self-fulfilling prophecy that, by accusing the German-born of disloyalty, alienated them and discouraged their sympathies towards the Confederacy. In doing so, by constructing an image of a German antihero, the Confederacy built up its spirit of nationalism.
Although German immigrants moved to cities, in the South and in the North, primarily in order to seek economic opportunities, the immigrants who came to Richmond were different from their ethnic counterparts of the North. As they assimilated and acculturated to the South, their values, behaviors, and loyalties became diverse. By the time of the Civil War, the German-American community of Richmond was quite divided. A common ethnicity failed to hold even those hundreds of German-Americans living in Richmond to one political ideology. Their story illustrates that ethnic divisions often do not coincide with political ones.
Richmond's German-American community received, during the Civil War, a reputation for universal disloyalty. This myth continues today, though a complex analysis of the German-born does not support it.
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