Sons of the White Eagle in the American Civil War

Divided Poles in a Divided Nation

Mark F. Bielski

A chronicle of battle and bravery in the Civil War, as Polish officers who had lost their own country remained determined to fight for their new one, and for the ideals they had always upheld, whether freedom or independence, or whether North or South . . .
Publication date:
July 2016
Publisher :
Casemate Publishers
Illustration :
16pp photos
Format Available     Quantity Price
ISBN : 9781612003580

Dimensions : 229 X 152 mm
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• The first book that recognizes the immense combat expertise Polish officers fresh from the wars of Europe provided to the nascent War Between the States
Describes heretofore unknown heroism, also combat actions, in which the Polish émigrés took part
Will appeal to all Civil War readers seeking new information, as well as the strong Polish audience whose heroes are so often neglected in military history

This book describes nine transplanted Poles who participated in the Civil War. They span three generations and are connected by culture, nationality and adherence to their principles and ideals. The common thread that runs through their lives—the Polish White Eagle—is that they came from a country that had basically disintegrated at the end of the previous century, yet they carried the concepts of freedom they inherited from their forefathers to the New World to which they immigrated.


Once in America the pre-war political feuds, ferocious ensuing battles, captures, prison camp escapes and privations of war—often in the words of the soldiers themselves—are fully described. More highly trained in warfare than their American brethren—and certainly more inured to struggles for nationhood— the Poles made a more significant contribution to Civil war combat than is usually described.


The first group had fought in the 1830 war for freedom from the Russian Empire. The European revolutionary struggles of the 1840's molded the next generation. The two of the youngest generation came of age just as the Civil War began, entered military service as enlisted men and finished as officers. Of the group, four sided with the North and four with the South, and the other began in the Confederate cavalry and finished fighting for the Union side. All but one came from aristocratic backgrounds.


In a war commonly categorized as a "brother against brother,” a struggle between two American regions, history has not devoted a great deal of attention to the participation of Poles, and foreigners in general. These men fought with a belief in European democratic liberalism. Whether for the North to keep a Union together or to form a new nation from the Southern states, they held to their ideals, and in America's own greatest conflict continued to fight for their beliefs.


''The author has demonstrated an extensive use of primary as well as secondary sources from memoirs and newspapers to the Official Records and contemporary books, journals, and articles. ...Complementing the well-organized text are a number of photographs and illustrations of the nine subjects and others cited therein...''
Misc US Reviewer

...explores what these Poles were doing in the United States, what motivated them to participate in the war, and why some of them fought on the Confederate and not the Union side...At the heart of the book are detailed profiles of nine sample Polish soldiers, four fought for the North; four for the useful insight into an underreported aspect of the war: the experience of Polish immigrants in both Northern and Southern armies.
Civil War News