Were the 1848 Socialists the Real Backbone of the Union Army?

by Al Benson Jr.

This is one of those nagging little questions the “history” books will never bother to answer, not even address, if their authors can avoid it. Fully 95% of the information dealing with the “Forty-eighter” socialists involvement in the Union army and the early Republican Party has been carefully swept into a nice, neat little pile and quietly dumped down the memory hole. It is fervently hoped by most public educators that most students will continue on in their programmed ignorance, not even knowing in what century the War of Northern Aggression was fought in, nor what the real issues were.

That way none of the educrats parading as historians will ever have to answer any embarrassing questions. But, here and there, some little tidbit, like a dust bunny caught in the breeze, manages to avoid the memory hole and comes back to haunt the educrats.

Years ago, when researching for our book Lincoln’s Marxists I came across an interesting quote from Friedrich Engels that was noted in his biography, Friedrich Engels written by Gustav Mayer and published back in 1936 by Alfred A. Knopf, New York.

Whatever else he was, Engels was a keen observer and Mayer noted his comments regarding the two armies, Northern and Southern, at the beginning of the War. Engels had observed that: “…at first neither side had a real army, and their was an appalling lack of trained officers; and (as Engels pointed out) had it not been for the experienced soldiers who entered America after the European revolution–especially from Germany–the organization of the Union army would have taken still longer than it did.” Stop and analyze that statement.

Some have analyzed the number of men in the Union army at the start of the War to be around 15,000 men, coming from all over the country. When the Southern states legally seceded many of those men went south to fight for their states. Thus the size of the Union army, not large to begin with, was further reduced. It has been estimated that between 4-5000 Forty-eighter socialists fled to this country as their revolutionary activities in Europe started to wind down. Not all ended up being soldiers, but a lot did. What Engels was telling us is that, at the start of the War, the backbone of the Union army was the Forty-eighter socialists! Now that’s from an original source who was around at the time. Maybe Engels may have been prone to exaggerate a little, but there is still an element of truth in his statement. The Union army, at the beginning of the War, had lots of Forty-eighter socialists in it–some of whom became generals before too long. There was a real socialist faction in the Union army at the war’s start, which remained throughout. I don’t ever recall seeing this in any history book about the War I ever read. Did the “historians” just miss this aspect, or was it omitted intentionally. lest such a fact raise lots of questions as to what the War was really all about–and folks, it wasn’t slavery. Class struggle might just be closer to it.

One way you can note the socialist influence on the Union armies was by the amount of Southern private property destroyed, the number of Southern churches either burned or turned into stables for Yankee horses, and quite possibly the number of Southern women, both black and white, that were raped. The socialists abhorred the concept of private property. To them it was anathema. So, destroying it in the South was second nature to them–except for what the could steal, which was alright, because then it has been rescued in the name of “the people.”

If you depend on the miserable “history” texts in most public schools you will seldom learn any of this. There is a good chance that the Union army,  at   the beginning of the War, was about 30-40% socialist. That’s sure not what I was taught in school, but, then, the history books I was taught from mostly lied to me, and I don’t think all that much has changed regarding history books.

The socialist/communist influence over the War and the early Republican Party has only begun to be explored and more work needs to be done. Walter Kennedy and I have sought to make a start with Lincoln’s Marxists. It is our hope and prayer that this will make a difference and that others will carry on.


10 thoughts on “Were the 1848 Socialists the Real Backbone of the Union Army?

  1. Hi Al, I always enjoy your articles and like you, never read about how many of the 48’ers joined the union cause in any of my school textbooks, and that includes graduate school. Anyway, I’ve always wondered how many mercenaries from Ireland, Germany, etc. either joined or were coerced into the union army over the course of the war and what percentage of their army were made up of such at various times. I would think the percentage of non-native born soldiers continued to climb over the extent of it. This would include the number of non-native born Northerners they extracted in the form of former slaves that were forced into their ranks from the Confederate States. It would be an eye opening study I would think and I am not aware of anyone that has done an extensive study of it. Are you aware of any such research? Anyway, keep up the good work and give my best to the Mrs.

  2. Sir it was a pleasure to meet you at the February meeting of the Cpt T.O. Benton, SCV Camp in Monroe. Yours and Mr. Kennedy’s book are helping me to understand that the South fought the first war against communist forces. I was the fellow who spoke to you at the close of the meeting who has the first edition of your book co-authored with Mr. Kennedy.

    • Mr. Smith,
      I remember talking with you at the conclusion of the meeting. It all seems to come down to your comment about the South fighting the first war against communism. I had not thought of it in quite those terms, but that seems to be what it has amounted to. That war still seems to be ongoing, and, although in God’s providence the communists will eventually lose, right now they seem to be winning.

  3. Mr. Benson,

    Reading your aticle on the 48ers from Germany reminds me of something my grandmother heard as a child. She heard this from a relative who had been in the Confederate Army. He was scouting for the army and captured a Union soldier who had come here straight from Germany. When he asked the man why he was fighting us, the German replied in broken English that he had been told the purpose of the war was to “make you into good Americans.”

    Dr. James Brooks Clarksville, Tennessee

    • I heard the same story in a little different context but it was close enough that I believe it is accurate. These socialists had a vision for this country they were going to shove down our throats whether we wanted it or not. That’s one thing about those on the left, they always know what’s good for everybody no matter what and they plan to be on hand to make sure you get what’s “good” for you–and if it helps out their friends financially, well, all the better.

  4. Pingback: Were the 1848 Socialists the Real Backbone of the Union Army? | revisedhistory « GUNNY G: P!SSED YET? WELL, WE BETTER BE!

  5. You must be kidding.

    From the Oxford Companion to Military History: Union Army

    “…Although the United States had a regular army of 16,000 career soldiers when the Civil War began, throughout the conflict it placed chief reliance on an ad hoc force of U.S. Volunteers, the Union army. On 15 April 1861, President Abraham Lincoln summoned 75,000 militia to serve for three months. (Oversubscribed, 91,816 were actually accepted.) Then, without legal authority, he increased the regular army by 22,714 men and called for 42,034 three‐year volunteers. In July 1861, the U.S. Congress sanctioned Lincoln’s extralegal acts and authorized 500,000 additional volunteers.

    The Union army grew steadily throughout the war, from 186,751 in July 1861 to 1,000,516 in May 1865. By war’s end, about 2 million men had served in the army, a figure that includes 179,000 African Americans and 100,000 white unionist Southerners from the Confederate states…”

    Read more: http://www.answers.com/topic/union-army-2#ixzz2ifeoNbAO

    • No I am not kidding. Read the book “Lincoln’s Marxists” for more info. The 48ers were the backbone of the Union army when the War started and as many of them held the rank of General they were able to subtly influence many of those in their commands. You cite a document that takes much of its info from Union army sources. Try looking around a little more.

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