The Boychiks in Company C: Color Guard for a Regiment of Immigrants
Suspicion and resentment of immigrants was a source of social and political controversy in 19th Century America, much as it remains today: loyalties suspect, patriotism doubted, with immigrants routinely presumed guilty until proved innocent. [This story appeared in slightly different form at Forward(dot)com.]
In 1848, an unsuccessful rebellion sought to unify the German states. In 1861, rebellion sought to split apart the United States. Suspicion and resentment of immigrants, including but not limited to the influx of German-speaking “Forty-eighters,” or refugees from among the defeated rebels for a united and democratic Germanic republic, was a source of social and political controversy in 19th Century America, much as it remains today: loyalties suspect, patriotism doubted, with immigrants routinely presumed guilty until proved innocent.
Local communities in both the North and South mobilized efforts to organize and equip the armies of the Civil War. In August, 1862, the Jewish community of Chicago met in a series of meetings at the Concordia Club to organize a Jewish company for a new Illinois regiment to be comprised of German and Scandinavian immigrants under the command of Colonel Frederick Hecker.
Colonel Hecker was himself a leading “Forty-eighter,” whose own poorly armed force was badly routed in Baden in April, 1848. A resolution was drafted, the community raised an initial $6,200 in its first night, and forty-two men volunteered at the recruiting office which opened the following day. Captain Jacob LaSalle was assigned as company commander, and presented in a ceremony with “an elegant sword, sash and belt.” The flag, which cost $152, purchased and hand-inscribed by the women of the Chicago Jewish community with the words “82nd Regiment Illinois Volunteers,” was formally presented to Col. Hecker, who designated the Jewish company with the honor of regimental color guard (Meites, p. 90–91).
Ultimately, a full company of ninety-six volunteers and $11,000 were raised for the company named the Concordia Guards. The Chicago Tribune reported, “Our Israelite citizens have gone beyond even their most sanguine expectations. Their princely contribution of itself is a record which must ever redound to their patriotism. The rapidity…