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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton October 19, 2019

Letters home: German-American Civil War soldiers’ letters 1864–1865

  • Samantha Litty EMAIL logo


Phillipp Schneider, German-American Civil War soldier and resident of Wisconsin since the age of 9, wrote 45 letters from March 1864 to August 1865, totaling ca. 22,500 words. I analyze these letters from a sociolinguistic perspective, considering both the unique mix of German and English usage and the socio-historical implications surrounding the letters. These are supplemented for comparison with two letters written by German-American Heritage German speaker and soldier, Jacob Goelzer, who wrote to Schneider’s sister twice in 1864. I describe the importance of when and under what circumstances these letters were written, and I also delineate instances from the letters of how the dominant community language, English, has influenced the German used and compare the use of German and English.


I would like to thank Jane Kietzer and the Lomira Historical Society for bringing the collection to my attention and for allowing me to use the letters for this research. I thank the following for comments, suggestions and discussions on this topic: Joe Salmons, Mirva Johnson, David Natvig, Josh Brown, and the other contributors to and editors of this volume. All remaining shortcomings are solely my responsibility.


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Published Online: 2019-10-19

© 2019 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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