Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Booknotes: Shades of Green

New Arrival:
Shades of Green: Irish Regiments, American Soldiers, and Local Communities in the Civil War Era by Ryan W. Keating (Fordham UP, 2017).

This is the latest volume from Fordham's The North's Civil War series, which "explores Northern society and its role in a broadly defined Civil War era, stretching from the antebellum development of the North to the aftereffects of the conflict in the postbellum period." The series "focuses on both the Northern homefront and the Union military, following Northern soldiers and sailors to battlefields and occupation duty throughout the South." The Union's ethnic soldiery have always been a prominent part of the series, and Keating's Shades of Green examines another aspect of Irish immigrant soldiers and society in the Civil War era.

From the description: "Drawing on records of about 5,500 soldiers and veterans, Shades of Green traces the organization of Irish regiments from the perspective of local communities in Connecticut, Illinois, and Wisconsin and the relationships between soldiers and the home front. Research on the impact of the Civil War on Irish Americans has traditionally fallen into one of two tracks, arguing that the Civil War either further alienated Irish immigrants from American society or that military service in defense of the Union offered these men a means of assimilation. In this study of Irish American service, Ryan W. Keating argues that neither paradigm really holds, because many Irish Americans during this time already considered themselves to be assimilated members of American society." The theme of alienation vs. assimilation seems to be a popular one among current scholars, with a number of historians also applying it to their studies of German-American Civil War soldiers.

More: "With a focus on three regiments not traditionally studied, the author provides a fine-grained analysis revealing that ethnic communities, like other types of communities, are not monolithic on a national scale. Examining lesser-studied communities, rather than the usual those of New York City and Boston, Keating brings the local back into the story of Irish American participation in the Civil War, thus adding something new and valuable to the study of the immigrant experience in America’s bloodiest conflict."

"Throughout this rich and groundbreaking study, Keating supports his argument through advanced quantitative analysis of military-service records and an exhaustive review of a massive wealth of raw data; his use of quantitative methods on a large dataset is an unusual and exciting development in Civil War studies." A quick glance through the text reveals widespread use of this approach.

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