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