|Unit History Project|
The Thorny Rose: The
Americanization of an Urban, Immigrant, Working Class
Regiment in the Civil War. A Social History of the 39th New
York Volunteer Infantry
APPROVED BY SUPERVISORY COMMITTEE
Copyright by Catherine Catalfamo, 1989
First and foremost, my gratitude is due to my parents, Rocco and Phil Catalfamo for keeping the money tree blooming for the duration of my formal education, as well as for a lifetime of telling me "you can be whatever you want to be." I especially thank them for fully supporting and encouraging my freedom of expression and right to my own opinion, whether they agreed with me or not, for encouraging me throughout my life to "shoot for the stars," and finally, for instilling in me a pride in ethnicity that made the subject of this paper an enduring interest. Two of their oft-repeated slogans come to mind: "Remember, your name is Catalfamo." and "Sempre Avanti!".
Second, I would like to thank my husband, Monte Tidwell, for unselfishly putting aside his own aspirations for a year to be a full-time househusband and father to our twin baby girls, Catherine Rose and Josephine Siena (born January 1988) so that I could finish this dissertation; and thank you,too, Katie and Josie for being such good babies.
Third, I would like to acknowledge four scholars in particular who were a tremendous help at different stages in the pursuit of my topic and in my academic career. The first is Dr. Nan Pendrell, my freshman advisor, my mentor, who was a beloved friend, a loving teacher and critic, and a source of lasting political wisdom, which she gained in a lifelong career as a "worker-intellectual" in the struggle for social justice. Dr. Pendrell died in the second year of my Doctoral Program at the University of Texas at the age of 80. Dr. Dudley T. Cornish, whose work on African-American troops in the Union Army is a Civil War classic, has been a source of scholarly advice, constant encouragement, unending wit and marvelous humor. Dr. Guy Howard Miller took me under his wing in my first semester at U.T., delighted me with his teaching style, intrigued me with intellectual history, and struck fear into my heart with a strenuous copy-editing job on my dissertation. And, finally, I would like to thank Dr. Thomas Philpott who has been a good friend and a source of inspiration in his constant reassurance that ethics, love, justice and human dignity are themes that belong in the history classroom.
Supervising Professor: George Forgie
" The Thorny Rose" is an attempt to combine three different kinds of historical and social analysis to gain insight into the lives of the men and women of the Garibaldi Guard, an urban, immigrant, working class regiment in the American Civil War. It is first and foremost a "face of battle" regimental history, a narration of their war experiences, both as human beings facing the all-encompassing violence of mid-nineteenth century modern warfare, and as immigrants facing a sometimes brutal, sometimes baffling "Americanization" process with the Union Army as the vehicle.
Second, the dissertation offers a social analysis of the material conditions of the lives of these immigrants as urban working people in the city and in the army. It deals with the nativism and discrimination that they faced, and their collective and individual reactions to perceived mistreatment, as well as to the class structure of urban society and the army.
And finally, the dissertation is a critique of the concept of assimilation and its true meaning in the mid-nineteenth century industrializing epoch of American and European capitalism. It proposes an analysis of the hegemonic function of assimilation. Assimilation, as it was demanded of immigrants, was not only a cultural phenomenon, but also an acceptance of American capitalist hegemony and its supportive economic and political ideology as well. The immigrants' internalization of notions of individualistic/capitalist competition and a social ladder that was definitive of not only success, but character, were just as important to the so-called Americanization process as internalization of democratic phraseology and the myth of equal opportunity. "The Thorny Rose" tells the story of the destructive effect of this competitive ethos on the immigrant community of the Army, as demonstrated in the "making it story" of the Garibaldi Guard.
Copyright by Catherine Catalfamo, 1989
New York State Division of Military
and Naval Affairs: Military History