Project Reflection: Immigrants in the Union Army

The link to the website can be found here.

My digital project attempted to place the Civil War in a broader context by examining the lives of immigrant soldiers in the Union Army. This project allowed me to explore the intersection of the Civil War and 19th-century immigration, which are two areas of history I am extremely interested in. I first became familiar with the historiography of immigrants in the Civil War when I interned at Gettysburg National Military Park. I gave a program about the third day of the battle through the lens of the 39th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment, also known as the Garibaldi Guards. I originally had the idea of creating one map and plotting the journeys of dozens of soldiers and regiments that heavily consisted of immigrants. However, the constraints of story maps did not allow me to pursue that idea. Instead, I decided to narrow my focus on four soldiers; Albert Cashier, Włodzimierz Bonawentura Krzyżanowski, Joseph Pierce, and Carl Schurz. While I also hoped to explore immigrant soldiers who served in the Confederate Army the time constraints and lack of accessibility to monographs about the topic compelled me to abandon that idea and narrow my focus on immigrants who served in the Union Army.   

Working with story maps was initially frustrating. When I tried to create lines in between each point the points themselves would sometimes move. When I found myself wasting too much time to try and remedy this issue I decided to just leave the points as they are. I originally intended to embed primary source documents to go along with certain points but it became difficult because story maps would not allow me to orient the photo myself. If I had to do this project again it would be interesting to see how the points would look on a different tool, such as google maps.

When I initially proposed this project, I had the idea of it becoming an educational tool that teachers could use to allow students to explore the relationship between the Civil War and immigration patterns to the United States. It could also challenge students to think critically about the intellectual, cultural, and social baggage of immigrants, specifically in the case of those fleeing political persecution. While all the outcomes I initially proposed did not come to fruition I still think the site and maps are capable of raising questions about how we interpret the role of immigration in American history.

I was able to create some of the pages I originally thought about during the proposal phase. I created a page that provides people with a list of monographs, articles, and websites they can use to learn about the experience of prominent immigrants such as Carl Schurz and Franz Siegel as well as the efforts of the Irish Brigade. I also compiled the names of immigrants I came across in my research into a list that could guide those who are interested in learning more. I plan to continue building this list by adding more names and regiments that were made up of immigrants. Furthermore, while I did not have the chance to explore all the avenues I originally intended to I enjoyed constructing a project that challenges people to recognize that critical events such as the Civil War do not occur in a vacuum.

Digital Project Draft: Immigrants in the Union Army

For this project, I originally intended to create a multi-layered map that showed the trajectories of multiple immigrant soldiers who fought in the Union Army during the Civil War. I confronted a major challenge to this plan when after meeting with Megan Snow I learned that unlike in Google Maps I cannot create different layers or change specific pin colors. I soon decided that I would instead create an individual map for four different soldiers. I tried to create a single line that goes from point to point but it was difficult to create since some of them are so close together and the line kept fluctuating. In the next phase, I plan to try to draw individual ones between each point instead.

The maps contain at least eight to twelve points. I am also debating including more points that discuss the lives of the soldiers after they were mustered out of service. There is a disparity in the information I accumulated on Schurz and Krzyżanowski versus Pierce and Cashier who both left little to no personal records about their lives. However, by knowing what regiment they were in I was able to track what major battles and campaigns they partook in. Since the research for each map was extremely time-consuming I am still in the process of constructing a website to go along with the map. Along with a tab with links to the map the website will include a bibliography of all the sources I am using, a recommended reading list with scholarly monographs and articles that people could use to map out the lives of other immigrant soldiers and links to museum databases such as the Vesterheim Civil War Database, which contains information on the lives of soldiers born in Norway. I am also still in the process of accumulating a collection of photographs and personal accounts that I plan to put on a Primary Source page so people can explore. I also drew up a list of some of the immigrant soldiers that fought in the Union Army organized by country of origin so if people who visit the site are interested in tracking the life of a soldier they can choose one from the list.

Next Steps

  1. I added text to go with most of the pins on each of the maps, but some still need text or more information. I also want to include photographs of the soldiers or photographs of the aftermath of certain battles. I am also interested in creating two more maps possible for Thomas Meagher or Frederick Füger.
  2. Organize the pins in a way that creates a coherent story.
  3. Continue building the accompanying website.
  4. I am still interested in possibly creating lesson materials to include on the website, but as a result of the current time constraints, I am not sure if I will be able to complete this in time. I do intend to include basic information about immigrants in the Union Army as well as how to navigate the website on the homepage of the website.

Memory and Museums

Hi everyone, I hope you and your families are all staying safe and indoors! For this post, I will be discussing Re-collection: Art, New Media, and Social Memory by Jon Ippolito and Richard Rinehart, and Sheila Brennan’s article “Getting to the Stuff: Digital Cultural Heritage Collections, Absence, and Memory.” The section of the Re-collection: Art, New Media, and Social Memory I will be focusing on concerns the relationship between new media and social memory, and how the evolution of the former results in implications for how productions of culture are preserved. The article, published in 2012, explores how museums refrain from making their collections public online. While in the past week we have seen a drastic shift from that trend as museums start to make exhibits and other materials accessible online, do you think this will change once things return to normal?

In Re-collection: Art, New Media, and Social Memory, Ippolito and Rinehart argue that the growing presence of digital media and its vulnerabilities threaten the existence of different cultural forms within social memory. The explore their argument by using the challenges in preserving new media art as a case study. In the chapter “New Media and Social Memory”, Ippolito and Rinehart first introduce the concept and field of “social memory.” They argue that social memory is “how and what societies remember­––the long-term memory of civilizations”(pg. 14). Social memory is also categorized as a multifaceted ideological nature that facilitates the inculcation of traditions, beliefs, and values into the subconscious of an evolving society. Ippolito and Rinehart argue that there are two types of social memory–formal and informal. Formal social memory, interpreted as being institutionalized, entails the preservation and interpretation of objects in their organic and stagnant form by museums, libraries, and archives so they maintain a sense of historical authenticity. Informal social memory serves to distinguish the evolution and functionality of an object i.e. the preservation of late-twentieth-century video games. Ippolito and Rinehart argue that the preservation challenges facing the field right now require melding techniques used in both formal and informal social memory. Ippolito and Rinehart later argue that the digitization of the vehicles of social memory and the tools used to practice it and the weaknesses of new media challenge the foundation of social memory. Some of the suggestions they pose for preserving social memory from extinction are emulation, migration, and reinterpretation.

Eric Andre GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

In her article “Getting to the Stuff: Digital Cultural Heritage Collections, Absence, and Memory,” Sheila Brennan argues that the gatekeeping measures put into place by museums prevent amateur historians and everyday people from interacting with collections not currently on display. Brennan argues that museums can benefit from increasing their digital footprint by using tools, such as an increase in visitation both virtual and physical.  In 2004, at the suggestion of Roy Rosenzweig, whose work explores the relationship everyday people have with history, Brennan published a study about the presence of museums on the web. Later in the article, Brennan compares her findings from 2004 with another survey she conducted in 2011. She analyzed 115 sites out of 1179 museums listed in the American Association of Museum’s directory and her findings showed that between 2004 and 2011 the context provided by museums about their collections decreased and that they overwhelmingly lacked online teaching and learning resources. It is interesting to read this article as different institutions start to recognize the popularity of their collections and using them to increase public awareness about historical events.

Stay safe!

Good Night And Good Luck GIF by Ari Spool, Community Curator - Find & Share on GIPHY

September 11th Digital Archive

The irreparable effect of 9/11 on contemporary society is a phenomenon posterity will recognize as a facet of everyday life. Those born during the turn of the twentieth century will most likely develop prosthetic memories of the event through the wave of militaristic films produced in the wake of the attack. The September 11 Digital Archive created in 2002 provides these generations a platform to learn about 9/11 through “first-hand accounts, emails, and other electronic communications, digital photographs and artworks, and a range of other digital materials.” The American Social History Project at the City University of New York Graduate Center partnered with the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University to create a permanent record of the 9/11 epoch. A partnership with the Library of Congress forged in 2003 resulted in the archive becoming a permanent collection and the first digital acquisition of the national institution. In 2011 the National Park Service and the NEH awarded the Archive a Saving America’s Treasure Grant to ensure its longevity. The historians and archivists who created the September 11 Digital Archive also see it as an opportunity to analyze how historical events are digitized and preserved in the twenty-first century. The main objective of this archive is to break through the political cacophony dominating the memory of the attacks by preserving and highlighting the stories of those who lived through it. The site also provides historical context to help viewers understand the lasting effects of this event on the contemporary political, social, and cultural discourse. The FAQs About 9/11 tab includes a variety of links to different news sites, such as the New York Times and Washington Post, government reports about the rebuilding efforts, and links to the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, Flight 93 National Memorial, and the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial.

By clicking the collections tab of the archive viewers can explore the eclectic sources preserved on the site which include oral histories, paintings, chains of emails, and action reports produced in the aftermath of the attacks. What differentiates this archive from standard ones is that the collections constitute of emails and the personal thoughts people in the immediate aftermath of the event. Some of the personal collections, such as that of Alex Ringer, place 9/11 within a global context which compels viewers to recognize the global ramifications that spurred from the event.

One collection item that immediately captured my attention was a collection of emails titled the Vivek Sud emails. The email chain is between a group of coworkers attempting to discern what is going on and if everyone in their office is safe. By examining these emails viewers of the archives can obtain a glimpse into the commotion that occurred on September 11th. By looking at the timestamps of the emails and juxtaposing it with one of the timelines provided in the FAQ visitors of the site can observe what some of the immediate reactions were to the different attacks that occurred throughout the day. Also included in the Items list is an oral history interview conducted by Rebecca Brenner Graham who is a Ph.D. candidate in history at American University with Steve Navon who worked for Cantor Fitzgerald, a business in the North Tower, who was late to work on 9/11. During this interview, Navon recounts his morning with explicit detail as well as the importance of remembering those who lost their lives in the attack.

Digital Project Proposal: “Patrioti Italiani! Honvedek! Amis de la liberté! Deutsche Freiheits Kaempfer!”

As social history garnered popularity within the scholarly field during the mid-twentieth century, historians of the Civil War started to highlight the individual experiences of ordinary soldiers. The profiles highlighted in monographs and major productions, such as Ken Burn’s documentary The Civil War, were predominantly native-born and English-speaking soldiers, which effectively erased the narratives of foreign legions who fought in the Union Army.

Immigrants comprised twenty-five percent of the Union Army. Despite their invaluable contribution to the war effort, the potency of nativism within the political discourse of the time resulted in Northerners framed immigrants as soldiers of fortune who lacked allegiance to the United States. This premise not only fails to recognize the multitude of reasons they enlisted but also the fact that immigrants continually enlisted above their quota. Some notable regiments and military officers ­­–– such as the 39th New York Regiment, the Irish Brigade, Carl Schurz, and Franz Siegel –– partook in revolutions across Europe and saw themselves as vehicles of the fight for freedom and democracy. By placing the Civil War within a context that challenges its temporal and geographic boundaries, historians can examine the politics of race, immigration, and the inextricable nature of modern history.

Recruitment poster targeting German immigrants

My Project Proposal

For the digital project, I want to produce an educational tool that could possibly help teachers covering American history encourage their students to understand that history does not occur in a vacuum. I want to create a digital map that traces the journeys of foreign legions from their lives in Europe to enlist in the Union Army. I will begin by conducting secondary research on the topic which includes monographs such as The Irish in the American Civil War, Asians and Pacific Islanders and the Civil War, and Germain Immigrants, Race, and Citizenship in the Civil War Era. I will also conduct archival research by examining digitized military records, letters or diaries written by soldiers to garner an understanding of their personal histories and experiences fighting in the Civil War. I plan to use Google Maps to pin the locations of where individual soldiers or companies immigrated from and some of the campaigns or battles they partook in. I plan to embed either a link or a photograph of primary documents into the descriptions of the pins to incorporate the voices of the soldiers and allow students to garner an understanding of how to read and understand primary sources. I will embed this map into a WordPress website that provides users with contextual information along with other primary documents for them to analyze. I could also use tools such as Voyant to analyze what phrases or words soldiers frequently used. While

Audience and Outreach

My hope is that this could possibly become a crowd-sourcing project that provides students a platform to conduct historical research with digital tools while also learning about immigration trends and the Civil War. To publicize the map I plan to conduct pilot programs by promoting the map on social media and contacting local teachers, historians, and Civil War history buffs. After incorporating feedback from these targeted groups my next step would be to contact the Social and Multicultural Studies Curriculum Resource Teachers of local school districts to try to incorporate this into Civil War lesson plans.

Possible Challenges and Evaluation

One of the major challenges I foresee is the paucity of digital archives, of ordinary privates, that are transcribed into English. There are several higher-ranking individuals, such as Schurz and Siegel, whose lives I can thoroughly trace. Eventually, as more records are digitized I hope to expand the map. This project will partially be evaluated by its ability to entice students to learn about how global immigration and social trends altered the course of American history. I also hope it will encourage Civil War sites to promote the narratives of immigrant soldiers.