Living History

Who we are, what we do, and do not

Go to the Homepage of the GTG 1848.

German Revolutionists in America

After the failure of the revolutions of 1848/49, many German democrats either fled the country, were expelled, or emigrated voluntarily during the following decade. Most of them found political asylum and a new homeland in the United States. Cities like St. Louis, Cincinatti, Buffalo and Louisville, KY, almost doubled in size due to the influx of these "foreigners." In the decade between 1850 and 1860, the immigrants had to suffer considerably at the hands of "Nativists"

When the American Civil War became inavoidable in 1861, the vast majority of the german immigrants joined the Union effort. Led by the 1848/49 revolutionists, they enrolled in what they perceived to be their "Zweiter Freiheitskampf," their second fight for liberty. Many of their women joined the Sanitary Commissions and other relief societies. From the beginning, these Germans knew they were fighting not only for the preservation of the Union and democracy, but also for human rights: for the liberation of the slaves ­ and for themselves.

Their history is virtually unknown, or else grossly misrepresented in CW histories. It is the memory of these 180.000 men and uncounted women that we are trying to portray and preserve. In our opinion, their lives and efforts contain an unwritten chapter of democratic history.

Living History in Germany

In a time in which few people seem to be interested in history in its usual form (such as books), we try to make history accessible through show and role-play. We perceive of ourselves not as "reenactors" but as "Living Historians." Our focus is not on "battles," but on public demonstrations. Our encampment concept centers around a Western Sanitary Commission Post complete with Special Agents Office and Relief and Treatment tent(s). Women, men, and children are freely integrated in scripted and spontaneous scenarios depicting interactions between soldiers (healthy or ill), refugees, escaped slaves, teamsters, cooks, the WSC staff, hospital personnel, etc.

Much of our effort goes into research, trying to unearth letters, diaries and memoirs of the men and women we have chosen to portray, and the pictures and drawings representing them. We study 19th century dress forms, language(s), norms of etiquette, moral concepts, literature, and the biographies of individuals. Our findings are then incorporated into our demonstrations, and used to answer questions from the public.

Freiheitsfest Offenburg, 1997

Shows and Presentations

We employ a variety of venues to disseminate historical information and to educate our public. One is, obviously, a presentation of the WSC and / or the 3rd MO Inf. by the whole GTG, with tents, waggon, and assorted personnel. This presentation can be booked complete with or without our show of "Tableaux Vivants." These 'Living Pictures' were a popular form of 19th c. entertainment. often allegorical in nature, but equally as often used to picture historical events. Our show "Der Zweite Freiheitskampf: 1848 - 1861" depicts the revolutionary efforts of 1848 and 1849, the emigration, and the second fight for liberation (hence the title) from 1861-1865. There are ca. 20 Tableaux with narration, recitation, and songs.

For smaller events of for the purposes of museums, exhibitions, etc., our presentation can be scaled down to one or two actors, in uniform or civilian attire. We do have a "story"-scroll, shown above, and depicting essentially the same themes covered by the 'Tableaux'-show.

To organizers interested in a more scholarly presentation, we offer the following lectures (in German or English):

"Germans in the American Civil War"

"The Forty-eighters in America"

"August Willich: Marxist, U.S. General, and Social Revolutionary"

"The African-American Experience in the Civil War"

(all of the above offered by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Hochbruck)

"Women's Roles in the Civil War" and

"The Women of 1848/49 in North America" (Sabine Hochbruck, M.A.)

"Music of the Civil War Period" (Henning Zimmermann)


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