I received Chancellorsville and the Germans: Nativism, Ethnicity, and Civil War Memory in the mail on Tuesday from Fordham University Press. As a German-American, this particular book has special meaning for me. Christian B. Keller ties the scapegoating of the predominantly German Union XI Corps after Chancellorsville to a slowed process of assimilation by German-Americans after May 1863. He explores the battle and its aftermath from the German-American viewpoint, both that of the soldiers and those on the home front. I’m about halfway through this one and I’ve been very interested throughout. Look for a review within a week or so if things go according to plan. In addition, I’ve been on a bit of a Gettysburg kick lately, reading The Generals of Gettysburg by Larry Tagg, The Maps of Gettysburg by Bradley Gottfried, and The Brigades of Gettysburg, also by Gottfried, more or less simultaneously. I plan to review these three books together, just as I read them.
As some of you may have guessed, this will probably lead to discussion of the XI Corps’ controversial role in the battles of Chancellorsville and Gettysburg. Was the XI Corps scapegoated at these battles? Were the common soldiers at fault? Were their generals inept? Did these men fight as well as could be expected in light of the situations they found themselves in? I’ll try to explore this in some detail over the course of several posts. I have some ideas rolling around in my head that I need to spit out on paper and organize before blogging on them, though.
Before I launch into this, I’d be interested in your opinion. Who do you blame for the debacle at Chancellorsville? Howard? Devens? Hooker? The men of the XI Corps? Someone else?