Several years ago while co-leading a WWII tour in Poland I was discussing military history in that part of Europe with my British colleague, Philip Blood. We were considering Polish military successes and setbacks during several periods and at some point I mentioned to him that my real center of historical interest was the American Civil War. As we digressed, I mentioned that I had often wondered about the extent of Polish involvement in that conflict. The later discovery of some written accounts on Poles in America provided impetus.
While on a holiday visit to my parents’ home where I grew up, I chanced upon a book entitled, Poles in United States published in Warsaw in 1976. In its chapters devoted to the Civil War period were references to the Louisiana Polish Brigade organized for the Confederate Army as well as the Union’s Polish Legion and many of the characters who took part in the war. As I related this to Dr. Blood, he promptly gestured to me and said, “There’s your book on Poles in the Civil War!”
Initially, I planned to do a more encyclopedic work that covered Poles in the war generally. However, as I got further along in my exploration I found a core of interesting players on either side that in many ways sprang from the turmoil and revolutionary times in Europe in the first half of the nineteenth century. That these men could burn with similar ideals and passions but fight on opposite sides intrigued me. So I narrowed my focus but broadened my scope. What emerged was Sons of the White Eagle in the American Civil War.
By the way, this painting is “Diehards” by Don Troiani, another rendering of the action depicted on the cover of my book. You can see more of his outstanding work at www.dontroiani.com.