Max Kade German-American Center, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis & Indiana German Heritage Society
Volume 15 (2005)
A Lost American Dream
Civil War Letters (1862/63) of Immigrant Theodor Heinrich Brandes in Historical Contexts
Translated by Eberhard Reichmann
430 Kelp Grove Road, Nashville, IN 47448
(109 pp., ISBN 1-880788-15-2, $12.95)
river of history carries off the stories of individuals and drowns
them. The wave of forgetting wipes them from the memory of the world.
Writing means, among other things, to walk alongside the river, travel
upstream, rescue shipwrecked failures and find some flotsam again that
was caught at water´s edge, in order to give it a temporary home on a
Noah`s ark of paper” (Claudio Magris).
Theodor Heinrich Brandes
looked at war as being an utter humbug. Nevertheless, in 1862 he
enlisted in the Union Army voluntarily and as a substitute. Through the
promise of rewards for such military service he wanted to achieve his
American dream: a modest life in peace for his family.
introduction presents Brandes` social background and life in mid-19th
century northwest Germany before his emigration to the U.S.A. in 1853.
His immigrant experience of new socio-economic conditions in Cincinnati
and Indiana is meticulously reconstructed for the time leading to the
tragedy of the Civil War.
The letters, kept by a descendant, the
late Emma Wallpe of Oldenburg, IN, are embedded in the actions of the
83rd Indiana Volunteer Infantry Regiment and the campaigns leading to
the siege of Vicksburg under the command of Generals Grant and Sherman.
Disease took Brandes` life four weeks before he would have been honorably discharged from the army. He belongs to the “millions
of victims who, throughout time have perished in unspeakable and cruel
circumstances, . . . have fallen into oblivion without a trace in the
annals of world history” (Claudio Magris).
Numerous illustrations and an extensive bibliography add greatly to this work.