I am delighted to share a review of my book Sons of the White Eagle in the American Civil War: Divided Poles in a Divided Nation written by Mary Lanham and published in the Polish American Journal in December 2016. The Polish American Journal is the nation’s largest, independent English language monthly newspaper dedicated to the promotion, preservation and continuance of Polish American culture.
Sons of the White Eagle in the American Civil War: Divided Poles in a Divided Nation
Walk around the American Civil War section of your library and one could think that every aspect of the war has been covered. You will find specialized books on South Carolina Women in the Confederacy, Civil War Veterans of the Tonawandas, N.Y. and Biographical Sketches of Confederate Participants in the Battle of Picacho Pass, April 15, 1862. So it is only fitting that Mark Bielski has added to the field a Polish perspective of the War Between the States with his Sons of the White Eagle in the American Civil War.
This thoroughly researched text with photos, maps, historical documents, an impressive bibliography and index, offers nine personal portraits of Poles who fought for the North, the South, and in one case both. Ranging from Union General Wladimir Krzyzanowski, to Confederate Colonel Valery Sulakowski, and rebel turned Federal Sergeant Peter Kiołbassa, Bielski dissects the Poles historical view of freedom, how others view them, and they viewed themselves, through the lens of the Polish heroes of the American Revolution, and how the actions in Europe affected their motivations.
A prime example of this is Ludwik Zychlinski. A career military man with fighting experience in Europe, he hoped serving the Union would teach him tactics he could take back to use as a Polish freedom fighter. To explain the rationale of how Poles could fight in the defense of slavery, Bielski dissects the life of Gaspar Tochman, the organizer of the famous Confederate Polish Brigade. Tochman, a Virginia lawyer, found justification for succession in the U.S. Constitution and saw parallels between the actions of the U.S. Federal Government and Russian Empire’s partition of Poland.
Although Bielski is an academic, Sons of the White Eagle in the American Civil War is not a difficult read. Basic knowledge of Polish and U.S. history is all that is needed for this informative and enjoyable book. It is the perfect accompaniment to James Pula’s The History of a German-Polish Civil War Brigade and biography of General Wladimir Krzyźanowski. It fits perfectly into a Polish American library or a general Civil War collection.