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For God and Country

At least 1,000 Danish immigrants served in the military during the Civil War and ten times as many felt the war's consequences on the home front, but the reasons and values prompting Danish military service are still virtually unknown. Many of the Danish pioneers arrived in the 1840s and 1850s to a United States filled with regional tensions and an increasing fear of foreigners. The Civil War’s outbreak therefore forced these Danish immigrants to consider regional and national allegiances as well as American values.

International studies of ethnicity in the Civil War has shown that the conflict helped immigrants assimilate and secure a financial foundation - for instance through a state pension. Thus, these early Danish immigrants, potentially, created an important foundation for the more than 300,000 countrymen who arrived to the Scandinavian enclaves in the United States after the Civil War. Yet, previous research on Danish immigration has primarily been focused after 1868 when life in America had fundamentally changed due to the Civil War.

Consequently, inspired by research in transnational trends, the theory of 'complementary ethnic identity', and methods from new cultural history, this project examines how early Danish immigrants perceived and applied concepts such as race, ethnicity, and Danish and American identity before 1868.

The project For God and Country: Danes in the American Civil War – Transnational Ties and Complementary Identity is financed by the Danish Council for Independent Research │Humanities with a postdoc grant to Anders Bo Rasmussen.

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