The new German wing of the Republican Party initially favored New Yorker William Seward for the presidency in 1860. But it willingly followed Abraham Lincoln after he endorsed a liberal homestead law and an
anti-nativist "Dutch plank," written by Forty-Eighter Carl Schurz, a member of the platform committee. The party was well aware of the crucial importance of the German vote in many localities. Abraham Lincoln shrewdly
bought the German newspaper Illinois Staatsanzeiger, press and all, before he set out for the national convention in Chicago and the Republicans employed German orators to stress German issues throughout the campaign.
The election campaign of 1860 was an unusual one, of course, because not only the presidency, but the very existence of the nation was in question. German audiences, even Catholics and other loyal Democrats, were
generally receptive to arguments in favor of national unity. Of the 265 German language newspapers in the country in 1860, only three -all Southern weeklies- favored secession.
When secession, and later, hostilities
ensued, President Lincoln's calls for volunteers met an enthusiastic response among German-Americans, especially from well-trained Turner and rifle clubs, whose members were among the first to report for duty. Turners
and students of St. Louis' Humboldt Institute, the medical school founded by Forty-Eighter Adam Hammer, sped into action even before the call to arms, saving the local arsenal from takeover by Southern sympathizers. Turners
from Washington, D.C., were among the first to man the defenses of the capital and the colorful United Turner Rifles, the Twentieth New York Regiment, quickly marched off to its first assignment. Some 6,000 German volunteers in New York, another 6,000 in Illinois and 4,000 in Pennsylvania enlisted immediately. Boston quickly dispatched two companies. Wisconsin, Indiana, Iowa and, above all, Ohio sent large contingents. Some rural sections In the Midwest, especially in Wisconsin, were less ready to contribute troops, but these were the exception. German communities, in general, staged elaborate farewell ceremonies for their fighting men, not least because they wanted to demonstrate German participation in the war to those who had so recently been questioning their Americanism.
SPAN200 by Klaus Wurst and Norbert Muehlen. Published in behalf of Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen, Stuttgart