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An old castle in Baden-Baden
I returned late this week from an interesting business trip to Germany and France for the paper company I work for. I had a little bit of time to do some sightseeing with my colleagues to historic Strasbourg, France, as well as in the old resort town I stayed in, Baden-Baden. I am descended from an early German immigrant, Christian Menges, who sailed to what is now New York in 1709, settling at West Camp on the Hudson River. He left Germany to avoid the persecution during the early part of the Palantinate Revolution. His grandson, Moses Mingus (note the spelling change), fought in the American Revolution in the 1st New York Line Infantry before resettling in Ohio on land granted by Congress to veterans for their war service.
There are many parallels to York County, not the least of which is the original spelling of my name, which lives on in Menges Mills in the southwestern part of the county. For a look at the influence of other Germans in the Civil War, click on the link.
In a brief article I wrote for the on-line encyclopedia Wikipedia, I commented that “approximately 516,000 (23.4% of all Union soldiers) were German-Americans; about 216,000 were born in Germany. New York provided the majority of these native-born Germans with 36,000. Behind the Empire State came Missouri with 30,000 and Ohio with 20,000.” Perhaps surprisingly to many readers, Pennsylvania is not in the top three, despite its proud German-American heritage.
The reason? There was much less recent immigration to this area during the decades before the Civil War compared with these other states. The vast majority of Pennsylvania’s German-speaking population (including those living in York County) were native-born, and many had been here since the 18th Century or very early in the 19th Century and, like my ancestor, fled the Palantinate region of southern Germany to avoid persecution. A significant portion of the 216,000 German-born Union soldiers had immigrated to America following the Revolutions of 1848, another wave of religious and social upheaval in Baden, Württemberg, Hesse, and several other German states. They became known as “Forty-Eighters.”
The rosters of the various York County infantry regiments are heavily dotted with German names, which are counted in the 300,000 or so “German-Americans” who fought in the war. Over the next few months, we will take a look on this blog at various York Countians who served their country in its time of sectional crisis.
If you have any Civil War stories of your ancestors, feel free to contact me via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will share them, with your permission, with our readers.