“Drawn Together in a Blood Brotherhood”: Civic Nationalism amongst Scandinavian Immigrants in the American Civil War Crucible
AbstractThe American Civil War, 1861-1865, broke out during a time of intense debate over slavery and fear of foreign-born influence on American society. The war’s outbreak, however, provided both freedmen and immigrants an opportunity to prove their loyalty to the United States. Scandinavian Americans, among other ethnic groups, seized the opportunity. This article argues that the Scandinavian elite implicitly constructed at least three different forms of ethnic identity – here termed exclusive, political, and national – to spur enlistment at the ground level, gain political influence, and demonstrate American allegiance. In the process the Scandinavian war effort strengthened these immigrant soldiers’ ties to their adopted nation, while a political ethnic identity, initially constructed in opposition to other ethnic groups, was weakened by the Scandinavians’ experience in the American multiethnic military crucible. The Civil War thereby hastened Scandinavian immigrants’ path towards the American mainstream, where many veterans subsequently served as a bridge between their local communities and broader American society, and reinforced their belief in American civic nationalism.