“Drawn Together in a Blood Brotherhood”: Civic Nationalism amongst Scandinavian Immigrants in the American Civil War Crucible

  • Anders Bo Rasmussen University of Southern Denmark

Abstract

The 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.

Author Biography

Anders Bo Rasmussen, University of Southern Denmark
Anders Bo Rasmussen (Ph.D.) is Assistant Professor in American Studies at the University of Southern Denmark. His first book, I krig for Lincoln [To War for Lincoln], was published by Informations Forlag in 2014 and he is currently working on an English language monograph on the Scandinavian immigrant experience in the years bracketing the Civil War. He has published on Americanization after World War II and Scandinavian ethnicity during the American Civil War in Scandinavian, British, and American journals. His work on American culture and society has appeared in national publications such as Weekendavisen, Information, and Politiken among other outlets. Anders Bo Rasmussen will be a Visiting Fulbright Professor at New York University in the spring of 2017.
Published
2016-11-01
Section
Articles