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Sons of the White Eagle in the American Civil War: Divided Poles in a Divided Nation

Sons of the White Eagle in the American Civil War: Divided Poles in a Divided Nation

by Mark F. Bielski


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This book describes nine transplanted Poles who participated in the Civil War. They span three generations and are connected by culture, nationality and adherence to their principles and ideals. The common thread that runs through their lives—the Polish White Eagle—is that they came from a country that had basically disintegrated at the end of the previous century, yet they carried the concepts of freedom they inherited from their forefathers to the New World to which they immigrated.

Once in America the pre-war political feuds, ferocious ensuing battles, captures, prison camp escapes and privations of war—often in the words of the soldiers themselves—are fully described. More highly trained in warfare than their American brethren—and certainly more inured to struggles for nationhood— the Poles made a more significant contribution to Civil war combat than is usually described.

The first group had fought in the 1830 war for freedom from the Russian Empire. The European revolutionary struggles of the 1840’s molded the next generation. The two of the youngest generation came of age just as the Civil War began, entered military service as enlisted men and finished as officers. Of the group, four sided with the North and four with the South, and the other began in the Confederate cavalry and finished fighting for the Union side. All but one came from aristocratic backgrounds.

In a war commonly categorized as a “brother against brother,” a struggle between two American regions, history has not devoted a great deal of attention to the participation of Poles, and foreigners in general. These men fought with a belief in European democratic liberalism. Whether for the North to keep a Union together or to form a new nation from the Southern states, they held to their ideals, and in America’s own greatest conflict continued to fight for their beliefs.

Nominated for the Gilder Lehrman Prize

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781612003580
Publisher: Casemate Publishers
Publication date: 05/27/2016
Pages: 312
Sales rank: 723,260
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Mark F. Bielski is an historian and author and the director at Stephen Ambrose Historical Tours. He also hosts the History with Mark Bielski Podcast, where he and his guests, experts in their field, delve into the characters, backstories, and intrigues that drove events throughout history. Bielski’s first book, Sons of the White Eagle in the American Civil War: Divided Poles in a Divided Nation, describes the fascinating story of nine transplanted Poles who participated in the American Civil War. He received his Ph.D. in History at the University of Birmingham in England. Bielski lives in New Orleans, where he enjoys the city’s historical, cultural, and culinary riches on a daily basis.

Table of Contents

Foreword ix

Introduction xiii

Explanatory Notes xv

Chapter 1 Bearing the Standard in America 1

Chapter 2 On the Approach to War 9

2.1 Polish Concepts of Freedom 10

2.2 Becoming Americans 16

2.3 Attitudes on the Eve of War 29

Chapter 3 Allies to Adversaries 41

3.1 Gaspard Tochman 42

3.2 Adam Gurowski 57

3.3 Ignatius Szymanski 65

Chapter 4 Adventurers and Patriots 81

4.1 Ludwik Zychlinski 82

4.2 Valery Sulakowski 99

Chapter 5 The Model New American Officers 113

5.1 Wlodzimierz Krzyzanowski 114

5.2 Joseph Kargé 157

Chapter 6 Undying Grey and Dyed Blue 185

6.1 Peter Kiolbassa and the Silesian Poles of Texas 186

6.2 Leon Jastremski 202

Chapter 7 Reweaving an Uneasy Fabric 227

Appendices 231

Notes 237

Acknowledgements 273

Bibliography 275

Index 293

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