Illinois Staats-Zeitung -- August 26, 1861The American Turnerbund and the War. (Editorial)
Although the North American Turnerbund is dead, it was never more alive than it is now. As an entity it has just about entered the final stage of decay; yet its component parts have developed strength and energy as never before, and the strength and energy displayed by the individual parts of the Bund are guarantees that later a larger and stronger national society will be established.
Nobody need grieve about the dissolution of the defunct Turnerbund, for it had outlived its usefulness and was marked for destruction as long as five years ago. At that time a schism in its ranks wrought damage that was not repaired, despite all efforts of S. R. Wiesner, editor of Turnzeitung, the Society's official organ, to instill new life into the national association. 2When the Turnzeitung collapsed as a result of the April riots in Baltimore, the last hour of the North American Turnerbuad had come.
It had accomplished much good during the time of its existence, before, as well as after the schism; it had introduced as a permanent branch of education--a branch of which Americans physical education were unaware--not only into German-American circles but those of Anglo-Americans as well. Through the scientific lectures of Schuenemann-Pott, Stallo, and Solger, the Bund had engendered and fostered much mental activity among many of our German-American youths; it had established several good elementary and evening schools, or had caused their established; it had worked hand in hand with singing societies to make a place for German male choruses in America. In political battles it had served as the vanguard of the German-American element for some time; for after having taken a firm stand (through the adoption of the "Buffalo" platform in the fall of 1855) for the principles of the Republican party, which had been organized but a few years before, it soon widened this platform, which originally was directed against the further spreading of slavery, by making 3a strong attack on slavery itself (sic); Through the establishment of rifle clubs the Bund had provided military training for some of its members, and thereby, as we shall see, it had laid the foundation for reorganization. [Translator's note: The author is in error if he means to create the impression that this was the first evidence of the anti-slavery attitude of Americans of German descent. Long before the birth of the Republican party, in fact, nearly a hundred years before the American Declaration of Independence was signed in 1688, German Menonites in Germantown, Pennsylvania, under the leadership of their pastor, the Reverend Daniel Pastorius, publicly protested against slavery as an institution.]
Indeed, the Turnerbund had a long and honorable existence, but owing to indifference among the members its usefulness was impaired, and its services dwindled more and more. It would require too much time and space to trace all the causes of this indifference; we will mention briefly one of the chief causes, namely, the purely material tendencies which became especially noticeable after Turner saloons were opened in many cities. At that time individual 4Turner organizations actually were nothing but saloonkeepers' and beer speculators' associations; in some instances vain and idle formalism supplanted noble endearers and estranged many older members who had rendered valuable services and were the pillars of the organization.
However, these bad symptoms began to vanish when the great battle against The Southern Rebels was begun....
The Turner will see to it that history will relate and praise them for many more and much greater deeds. Even now they merit the distinction of having furnished proportionately more men for the army of the Union than any other association in the United States. Though they were snubbed, ridiculed, and neglected, their ardor for combat did not wave; moreover it grew when difficulties increased, and since Siegel and Willich issued their first warnings, Turner fighters have doubled their efforts.
It is to be deplored that all Turners serving in the various regiments of 5the Union Army cannot be united into one large Turner corps, or perhaps into two; one could be placed under the command of Siegel, and the other under Willich, for they are both Turners. Perhaps it is better that they are distributed among the various corps, and that, for instance, the Turner rifle men of Cincinnati are operating in the mountains of West Virginia, the Turner rifle men of the State of New York are located at Fort Monroe, those of Philadelphia are in the vicinity of Alexandria, and some Turner of Chicago are serving in the southeastern part of Missouri. Their military efficiency and, we may add, their staunchness, zeal, and endeavor, which have been renewed and increased on the field of battle, and their desire to fight a war for the liberation of men from the bonds of slavery rather than a political war, have been a source of strength and inspiration for the various army corps, especially for the Germans troops. And that Turner are able to operate as larger units is evinced by the services of the New York Turner Regiment.
Just as German Turners of the North, though they are spread over every part 6of the theatre of war, form in spirit one great brotherhood in arms, so they will form one great association, a regenerated and purified Turnerbund. The best and ablest German men will gladly join that Bund; for it will be their task, not only to resume the noble and elevating work of the old Turnerbund, but also to counteract the moral and physical debility which will follow in the wake of this great struggle, to prevent the atrophy of the good results of this war, and above all, to protect the good which Americans of German descent will reap from the victory of the North against the envy and wiles of nativism.
II B 3, I G, I J, III B 2, III D
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