Civil War Buff

Becoming American under Fire
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Author:  Author [ Fri Dec 04, 2009 8:18 am ]
Post subject:  Becoming American under Fire

New from Cornell University Press--
Becoming American under Fire: Irish Americans, African Americans, and
the Politics of Citizenship during the Civil War Era
by Christian G. Samito

Cornell University Press is pleased to announce the publication of Becoming American under Fire, by Christian G. Samito, a rich account of how African Americans and Irish Americans influenced the modern vision of national citizenship that developed during the Civil War era. This book is available from your favorite bookseller, directly from Cornell University Press via our website (, or by calling our customer service department at 1-800-666-2211.

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About Becoming American under Fire
In Becoming American under Fire, Christian G. Samito provides a rich account of how African American and Irish American soldiers influenced the modern vision of national citizenship that developed during the Civil War era. By bearing arms for the Union, African Americans and Irish Americans exhibited their loyalty to the United States and their capacity to act as citizens; they strengthened their American identity in the process. Members of both groups also helped to redefine the legal meaning and political practices of American citizenship.

For African American soldiers, proving manhood in combat was only one aspect to their quest for acceptance as citizens. As Samito reveals, by participating in courts-martial and protesting against unequal treatment, African Americans gained access to legal and political processes from which they had previously been excluded. The experience of African Americans in the military helped shape a postwar political movement that successfully called for rights and protections regardless of race. For Irish Americans, soldiering in the Civil War was part of a larger affirmation of republican government and it forged a bond between their American citizenship and their Irish nationalism. The wartime experiences of Irish Americans helped bring about recognition of their full citizenship through naturalization and also caused the United States to pressure Britain to abandon its centuries-old policy of refusing to recognize the naturalization of British subjects abroad.

As Samito makes clear, the experiences of African Americans and Irish Americans differed substantially--and at times both groups even found themselves violently opposed--but they had in common that they aspired to full citizenship and inclusion in the American polity. Both communities were key participants in the fight to expand the definition of citizenship that became enshrined in constitutional amendments and legislation that changed the nation.

About the Author:
Christian G. Samito earned a law degree from Harvard Law School and a doctorate in American history from Boston College. He is the editor of Commanding Boston's Irish Ninth: The Civil War Letters of Colonel Patrick R. Guiney, Ninth Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry; “Fear Was Not in Him”: The Civil War Letters of Major General Francis C. Barlow, U.S.A.; and Changes in Law and Society During the Civil War and Reconstruction: A Legal History Documentary Reader. He edits a series about the legal history of the Civil War era, teaches at Boston College and Boston University School of Law, and practices law in Boston.

Praise for Becoming American under Fire
“The Civil War ushered in the first constitutional definition of U.S. citizenship. In a thorough and systematic study of this development, Christian G. Samito shows how African American and Irish American soldiers helped earn equal citizenship for their people by fighting for the Union. Becoming American under Fire is essential reading for an understanding of this important transformation in the American polity.”--James M. McPherson, George Henry Davis 1886 Professor of American History, Emeritus, Princeton University, author of Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief

"Christian G. Samito's Becoming American under Fire is an important book that clarifies the debt that all Americans today owe to the ex-slaves and Irish immigrants who lived in the United States after the Civil War. Although at the time African Americans were unable to achieve real equality, and also Irish Americans were unsuccessful in liberating Ireland from British rule, in the process of struggling to achieve their goals both groups played major roles--sometimes even in cooperation with each other--in expanding the meanings and protections of citizenship for all Americans."--Kerby A. Miller, Curators Professor of History, University of Missouri, author of Emigrants and Exiles: Ireland and the Irish Exodus to North America

"Christian G. Samito’s thoughtful examination reveals how African Americans’ and Irish Americans’ ideas and actions in wartime contributed to a notion of citizenship grounded in loyalty and consent, not race or place of birth. We have long known that the Civil War 'nationalized' American citizenship. Thanks to Samito, we now know much more about precisely how that happened and what it meant."--Chandra Manning, Georgetown University, author of What This Cruel War Was Over: Soldiers, Slavery, and the Civil War

"In this important book, Christian G. Samito explains how ex-slaves and Irish immigrants helped to create a new definition of American citizenship. Their experiences in military service, determination to vote, and fervent loyalty to the federal government changed Americans' hazy antebellum concept of citizenship as loyalty to a state into a clear set of rights and duties in a newly powerful nation. This dramatic change defined America in the late nineteenth century, and its repercussions echo today."--Heather Cox Richardson, University of Massachusetts Amherst, author of West from Appomattox: Soldiers, Slavery, and the Civil War

"Christian G. Samito's new book offers a signal contribution to a crucial but understudied aspect of the Civil War its effect on citizenship. By focusing on the aspirations of Irish and African Americans, Samito shows how the contingencies of war gave opportunities for people at all levels to revise this fundamental attribute. His narrative reveals how a new, more robust national citizenship eclipsed older versions built narrowly around state identity and racial attributes. Samito's story rightly emphasizes the dynamic nature of how Americans have defined and understood citizenship and, in the process, adds a crucial historical dimension to contemporary debates over identity, citizenship, and politics." -Aaron Sheehan-Dean, University of North Florida, author of Why Confederates Fought: Family and Nation in Civil War Virginia

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Cornell University Press
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Ithaca, NY 14850
Tel: 607-277-2338, x255
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