More than two weeks have flown by since my last post. I promised to tell more of how German soldiers were portrayed in Civil War era media (was that word even used then?). In this short post, I will deliver on that promise.
Again returning to the New York Times edition of May 10, 1862 , describing the arrival General John Fremont at “Camp Jessie” in New Creek, West Virginia.
“The internal arrangement of the little camp was perfect; but its crowding beauty was the adornment which it owed to the love and enthusiasm of the German troops, who hearing of the General’s approach, hastened to show in this manner their confidence and devotion.” (italics and underlining are mine for emphasis). I suggest that the reader look to the article for a more detailed description of the camp and how it was decorated for Fremont’s arrival.
“…the working party was directed by Lieut. BUCHANAN, of the Cameron Rifles. The Lieutenant informed me that the Germans, having finished their work, he told his men to come to camp and take a glass of beer for doing it so well, when they touched their hats and (hear it Odin and Thor!) refused, saying that they had done it all for the dear General, and would rather not be paid at all! (After which sentiment, I am inclined to think, however, that they took the beer, without reference to the General!)” I thought this was an interesting commentary on the German soldiers, though I’m not quite sure what to make of it. On one hand, I can argue this is typical stereotypical portrayal of Germans; on the other hand, I can’t say that this incident didn’t happen. Of course, some research into the Cameron Rifles may or may not validate this reportage. Our reporter, however, continues to add stereotypical behavior and editorial commentary to his story—
“Having turned out carpenters, gardeners, horse-doctors, artists and engineers, the Germans produced a poet, in the person of Chaplain LUTHER, (descended from the original MARTIN,) who wrote a pretty sonnet on the occasion. I understand that they would have proceeded to further extremities — say a speech, or a cask of lager — had not time forbidden.”
Time had forbidden, for “Stonewall” Jackson was roaming through the Shenandoah Valley and Fremont’s command was trying to coordinate with two or three other commands to attempt to corner Jackson and eliminate his threat.
To somewhat re-coordinate myself with what was going on 150 years ago, I find the following correspondence in the Official Records, Volume 12, Part 3… “Special Orders No. 122, War Deparmtent, Adjutant General’s Office, Washington, May 31, 1862… Brigadier General Carl Schurz, U.S. Volunteers, is assigned to duty in the Mountain Department, and will report in person to Major-General Fremont.”
From General Fremont to President Lincoln on May 31… “Roads heavy and weather terrible. Heavy storm of rain most of yesterday and all last night.”
June 2… Woodstock, Virginia… Fremont reports ”if I could have succeeded in bringing up my infantry, would have made the day disastrous to Jackson; but the rapidity of the march made this impossible, and Jackson escaped dispersion.”
Cross Keys was coming.