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Long Road to Liberty: The Odyssey of a German Regiment in the Yankee Army the 15th Missouri Volunteer Infantry

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One of the "Fightingest Three Hundred" regiments of the Civil War Missouri, torn by divided loyalties between supporting the North or the South, had 39 infantry regiments serving in the Union army. Of these, the 15th Missouri, comprised primarily of German immigrants, served the longest and suffered the highest percentage of battlefield casualties of all the Union regiments One of the "Fightingest Three Hundred" regiments of the Civil War Missouri, torn by divided loyalties between supporting the North or the South, had 39 infantry regiments serving in the Union army. Of these, the 15th Missouri, comprised primarily of German immigrants, served the longest and suffered the highest percentage of battlefield casualties of all the Union regiments from Missouri. Yet very little source material is available about the 15th Missouri. German immigrants seldom wrote of their wartime experiences, and those who did wrote almost exclusively in German. A veteran of the regiment, Maurice Marcoot wrote the only known firsthand account of the 15th. Written years after the war, Marcoot's detailed chronicle of life in the 15th Missouri is the framework of Long Road to Liberty. Also using letters and diaries of Germans with other regiments, author Donald Allendorf expands on the experiences of the immigrant-soldiers--how they felt about slavery and race and why they chose to fight. Long Road to Liberty traces the men's immigrant roots and their involvement in events leading up to the war, including breaking up the last slave auction in St. Louis and efforts to keep Missouri in the Union, and continues with their army lives as the state's first volunteers. It details the 15th's actions in crucial battles in Tennessee and Georgia: their desperate stand at Stones River and near annihilation at Chickamauga; their charge without orders up Missionary Ridge; the campaign for Atlanta; and their role at Spring Hill and the killing field a day later at Franklin, Tennessee. They served almost five years, most of that time in daily contact with their Southern adversaries in Tennessee and Georgia. When the war was finally over, more than half of the 904 officers and men who had ever served with the 15th regiment had been wounded or killed, while another 107 died of disease. Historians and Civil War buff s alike will find Long Road to Liberty a welcome addition to the literature of the war in the western theater.


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One of the "Fightingest Three Hundred" regiments of the Civil War Missouri, torn by divided loyalties between supporting the North or the South, had 39 infantry regiments serving in the Union army. Of these, the 15th Missouri, comprised primarily of German immigrants, served the longest and suffered the highest percentage of battlefield casualties of all the Union regiments One of the "Fightingest Three Hundred" regiments of the Civil War Missouri, torn by divided loyalties between supporting the North or the South, had 39 infantry regiments serving in the Union army. Of these, the 15th Missouri, comprised primarily of German immigrants, served the longest and suffered the highest percentage of battlefield casualties of all the Union regiments from Missouri. Yet very little source material is available about the 15th Missouri. German immigrants seldom wrote of their wartime experiences, and those who did wrote almost exclusively in German. A veteran of the regiment, Maurice Marcoot wrote the only known firsthand account of the 15th. Written years after the war, Marcoot's detailed chronicle of life in the 15th Missouri is the framework of Long Road to Liberty. Also using letters and diaries of Germans with other regiments, author Donald Allendorf expands on the experiences of the immigrant-soldiers--how they felt about slavery and race and why they chose to fight. Long Road to Liberty traces the men's immigrant roots and their involvement in events leading up to the war, including breaking up the last slave auction in St. Louis and efforts to keep Missouri in the Union, and continues with their army lives as the state's first volunteers. It details the 15th's actions in crucial battles in Tennessee and Georgia: their desperate stand at Stones River and near annihilation at Chickamauga; their charge without orders up Missionary Ridge; the campaign for Atlanta; and their role at Spring Hill and the killing field a day later at Franklin, Tennessee. They served almost five years, most of that time in daily contact with their Southern adversaries in Tennessee and Georgia. When the war was finally over, more than half of the 904 officers and men who had ever served with the 15th regiment had been wounded or killed, while another 107 died of disease. Historians and Civil War buff s alike will find Long Road to Liberty a welcome addition to the literature of the war in the western theater.

7 review for Long Road to Liberty: The Odyssey of a German Regiment in the Yankee Army the 15th Missouri Volunteer Infantry

  1. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    Approximately 10% of the Union army was composed of German-speaking immigrants, and historically they have gotten short shrift. Germans (and Austrians, Swiss, and Hungarians) responded enthusiastically to the call for volunteers to defend the Union, but faced Nativist prejudice that tarred them all as "Dutch." Politically prominent, but militarily mediocre or incompetent Germans such as Franz Sigel, Louis Blenker and Carl Schurz did little to help their cause. On top of that, there were high pro Approximately 10% of the Union army was composed of German-speaking immigrants, and historically they have gotten short shrift. Germans (and Austrians, Swiss, and Hungarians) responded enthusiastically to the call for volunteers to defend the Union, but faced Nativist prejudice that tarred them all as "Dutch." Politically prominent, but militarily mediocre or incompetent Germans such as Franz Sigel, Louis Blenker and Carl Schurz did little to help their cause. On top of that, there were high profile set-backs of the predominantly German XI Corps of the Army of the Potomac at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg. For all of the negative examples of Germans' service in the Union Army, there are at least as many positive ones. Capable leaders such as August Willich, Peter Osterhaus, and Joseph Conrad (featured in this book), and steady units such as the 15th Missouri have been getting more attention in recent years. Long Road to Liberty is one of those recent books that seeks to recognize the honorable service of some Germans that served the Union, and to finally give the "Dutch" their due. Allendorfs book seeks to tell the story of these Germans from Missouri, from their pre-war arrivals in the United States, through enlistment, and then across most the major battles and campaigns in the Trans-Mississippi and Western Theaters of the Civil War. The author has plumbed Missouri archives, official Army records, and letters and diaries of men of the regiment to reconstruct their story. There aren't many surviving accounts from members of the 15th Missouri, so Allendorf sometimes relies on sources from regiments that served in the same brigade as the 15th, officers that held higher command over the regiment, and Confederate sources that were present at the same battles. There are some parts of the book that feel like they rely too heavily on these other sources. Aside from having to rely on non-regimental sources to fill in the narrative at times, the only other big issue with Long Road to Liberty is that Allendorf is also prone to editorialize a bit more than one should in a history book. Other than these relatively minor issues, the author put together a compelling narrative about a part of the Civil War that doesn't get as much positive attention as it should, the contribution of German immigrants to the Union war effort.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Damon Hall

  3. 4 out of 5

    John

  4. 5 out of 5

    Joseph D

  5. 5 out of 5

    Joel Manuel

  6. 4 out of 5

    Monick

  7. 5 out of 5

    Iain

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