Pennsylvania 1891 a group of Union veterans converged to bury one of their own Thomas Sylvanas Silvana's fought at the battles of mine run the wilderness and Spotsylvania he was in the color guard when the 81st pennsylvania charged the breastworks at Cold Harbor and when the rest of his detail fell he took the National colors from the hands of a wounded man and carried them the rest of the day captured during the siege of Petersburg he survived starvation and abuse in Andersonville Prison then returned to Pennsylvania after the war to marry and make a home he became naturalized voted and drew his pension like any other old soldier but the name on his gravestone was an adopted title to match his adopted land in his home country thomas Sylvanas was known as a leeway born in hong kong on the 4th of July 1845 when we think of soldiers serving in the u.s. Civil War we usually conjure up a certain image one instilled by documentaries novels and films the troops we picture are largely white or in the case of the US Colored Troops black or on occasion sometimes we highlight the service of recent European immigrants who came fleeing the instability that followed from the Irish potato famine or revolutions of 1848 but there were also others serving in the armies of the United States and the rebel Confederacy people that the wider public is only beginning to learn about and whose incredible stories historians are beginning to bring to light and that's important because in looking at these stories we get a better picture of America at the time of the Civil War so today we're going to do just that because while troops like Thomas Sylvanas were rare they were not unheard of research has started to uncover more veterans from Asia and the Pacific Islands many of which had escaped earlier historical accounts because they enlisted under English names in fact the National Park Service has begun keeping a list to try to coalesce and verify their service records and as of this episode it has over 300 names looking at the US Navy enlistment rolls you'll see men with birth places like Bombay Shanghai Java Singapore Lahore Manila Samoa and Tahiti men whose naval captain's either hired in foreign ports or lured them away from the whaling industry but sadly we know little about these men except for their dates of enlistment and discharge those who fought in the infantry by contrast gained a certain amount of media attention to Chinese infantryman Joseph Pierce and John Tommy fought at Gettysburg Pearce survived but Tom knee renowned in his unit for humor and personal bravery died in the peach orchard when cannon shot severed both of his legs his obituary ran in the New York Times a few Asians served in the Confederacy as well a group of Filipinos living near New Orleans enlisted in a Louisiana regiment and before the war Chang and Eng bunker the original Siamese twins who hailed from present-day Thailand retired from show business and bought a plantation in North Carolina when the South seceded each had a son join a Cavalry Regiment but of all the Pacific nations the Kingdom of Hawaii sent the most men into combat though officially neutral Hawaii's links with new england whalers and missionaries made it a hotbed for abolitionism in mock presidential elections lincoln pulled better in honolulu that in the US and when one southern born resident dared to fly a confederate flag her neighbors tore it down over a hundred Hawaiians and Hawaiian born Americans served in the US Army and Navy during the war signing up for adventure money or to battle slavery the highest ranking was General Samuel Armstrong the Hawaiian born son of New England missionaries who rose to command an african-american regiment and in the trenches of Petersburg he was shocked to run into Native Hawaiian soldiers serving as privates with the US Colored Troops one soldier had links to the royal family and some of these men stayed in the army even after the war joining the infamous african-american Buffalo Soldiers but there were others who fought closer to home March 28th 1862 Glorieta pass New Mexico Territory two men look down from the top of the Mesa hearing gunfire in the distance one is the commander of a Colorado unit but he's been brought here by Lieutenant Colonel Manuel Chavez who's largely Mex an American outfit the second New Mexico volunteers know this area well many of their families have lived in the area since the 1600s when the Spanish established missions there in fact they'd lived in Mexico where slavery was illegal until the border moved south after the mexican-american war now they were Americans fighting for the Union but they know that some of the enemy below them are Mexican Americans as well those who had chosen the other side due to differing beliefs economic ties to the south or anger at the US government over the Mexican American War at the bottom of the Mesa Chavez sees 200 Confederates guarding a baggage train Texans who've invaded the New Mexico Territory hoping to seize Union gold mines in Colorado if that succeeds they can link Texas with Confederate sympathizers in Southern California gaining Pacific ports to break the union's naval blockade Chavez doesn't know it but the Union has already lost this battle like it has with the last several with resources stripped for the war in the East it seems like the US troops can do nothing to stop this Confederate drive across the southwest unless they act the Mesa is steep so they find anything they can tie together ropes lariats saddle harnesses and they begin to descend the cliff the Confederates see them and open fire with a cannon under a rain of shot the Union soldiers rope down the steep Mesa and form ranks and once they advance it's all over the Confederate baggage train guards scatter and the main Confederate force celebrating victory will return to find their supplies looted and burned pack mules killed or scattered and they will have no choice but to walk back to El Paso in the hungry grip of winter this Mexican American militia has just broken the Confederate invasion of the southwest but Hispanic troops served in more areas than just the southwest up to 20,000 of them served as everything from naval officers to blockade runners spies to engineers in fact where the Confederacy fired on Fort Sumter it was a Cuban officer colonel Ambrosio Jose Gonzales who handled much of the artillery and in the final clash of the war conducted after the Confederate government had already fallen Hispanic Texans served on both sides when Union sappers lazed a crater in Confederate defenses during the siege of Petersburg it was the half Argentinean mining engineer Henry Pleasants who proposed and managed the operation at Gettysburg when Pickett's charge smashed into the Union lines at Cemetery Ridge a color bearer named Joseph de Castro rushed forward into enemy ranks battling an enemy color bearer hand-to-hand knocking the man down with his flagpole he snatched the enemy flag and ran both standards through the swirl of combat delivering the captured colors to his colonel for his actions he became the first Hispanic American to receive the medal of honor in the Navy two Hispanic seamen received the award one for defending the Union blockade and the other a Chilean dispatch runner who was one of only six men to breach Confederate defenses during an assault on Fort Fisher many men serving in the north were immigrants recently arrived to the US but many Hispanic families who fought on the Confederate side actually predated the revolution Hispanic plantation owners living in Florida and Louisiana had settled during the Spanish colonial days inheriting that empires own complicated history with slavery and due to their social status they often served as officers but there were people who had been in the United States even longer who faced a wrenching choice nearly 29,000 Native Americans served in the war fighting on both sides they were scouts frontier Raiders sharpshooters Harbor pilots and crack cavalry and others served no side clashing with US Army troops and settlers who abused them and violated agreements some tribes that sided with the Confederacy were slaveholders who wanted to maintain their way of life while others who did the same were disillusioned with the US government due to decades of broken treaties they pledged military aid to the Confederacy in exchange for a better deal in fact this tragic choice of which side to fight for divided the Cherokee Nation with its principal chief John Ross supporting the Union until Elstad and replaced by Stand Watie who led the nation to war for the Confederacy it became in effect a civil war within a civil war but that's a story that deserves its whole own episode until then I'll leave you with this when Lee and grant met for the surrender at Mattox li noticed that the man who drafted the surrender terms was grants secretary the seneca chief and lieutenant colonel Eli Samuel Parker I'm glad to see one real American here Lee quipped our corresponded we're all Americans

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

  1. Researchers are beginning to learn that the makeup of the Union and Confederate armies in the US Civil War was a lot more nuanced and diverse than we had previously known. Here is an episode on the accounts of some of those surprising soldiers!

  2. So we aren't going to bring up the fact that the Siamese twins both made sons while being stuck to each other and married to different women?

  3. Can y’all do another video going more in depth on the confederate side of the war? There is a whole lot of material that y’all could cover that most people don’t

  4. Born in 1845? Thomas Sylvanus was 16 when the war started then. And we probably wasn't even 21 when it ended.

  5. The Indian nations of Oklahoma were supposedly going to be recognized by the Confederacy and have representatives sent to the Confederate Congress. I'm not sure if this was included in the finished agreement though

  6. I've been to Andersonville
    It's quite sad to see the conditions they lived in
    They didn't have enough food to feed the guards, much less the prisoners
    The mass graves stretch for miles
    And the only water sources were heavily polluted
    I have a relative who was captured in the Cumberland Gap at the fighting there, and was sent to Andersonville, where he died of disease.
    The ironic thing was him and his father had left Georgia to join the Union army. The father had died of disease just before the son was captured.
    I wonder of him and Sylvanus met

  7. Here’s some surprising soldiers
    100 men from extreme northern Maine hiking a hundreds miles through the woods without roads to get on a train to go hundreds of more miles to join the fight

  8. I’d like to point out that a war vet from this era, that was a southerner, actually said that the south did not fight for slavery (history has means of backing this up) and that the civil war was about state rights, not slavery. He said he hated the way the slaves were treated and that his family was even working on getting rid of slaves entirely among some others, and that the average soldier simply joined the south not knowing the full extent and the whole truth as to what was really happening

  9. I like how this account uses monograms to identify individuals, like the "G" and "L" on Grant and Lee respectively.

  10. We need a series on the fall of the Soviet Union. You have all kinds of political chicanery (including that on the part of Americans), a war (Afghanistan) and a coup attempt. Also I need to see a cartoon version of Gorbachev.

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