Book Review: Lincoln’s Foreign Legion: The 39th New York Infantry, The Garibaldi Guard (Michael Bacarella) : ACW

8/11/2001 • Abraham Lincoln, Mag: America's Civil War Reviews

Lincoln’s Foreign Legion: The 39th New York Infantry, The Garibaldi Guard, by Michael Bacarella, White Mane Publishing Company, Inc., Shippensburg, Pa., $34.95.

The Irish and Germans are the two nationalities that spring to mind whenever the subject of immigrants or foreigners serving during the Civil War arises. Most buffs are familiar with the Irish Brigade and the heavily Germanic Union XI Corps, both of which served in the Army of the Potomac. Others can name units and individuals of Irish and German heritage who served on both sides during the conflict.

One of the most famous regiments in the North in the early months of the war,however, had its origins elsewhere–in fact,its roots ran back to at least 52 different places–and when its members marched down Broadway in New York City in answer to President Abraham Lincoln’s call for troops, they proudly bore the name of a famous Italian patriot. That regiment was the 39th New York Volunteer Infantry, known familiarly as the Garibaldi Guard.

When war broke out in 1861, General Guiseppe Garibaldi was one of the best-known military men on the European continent. As a result, it was Garibaldi’s name that a foreign language tutor to New York’s rich and famous used to recruit a regiment of men from 14 different states and 52 European principalities. The tutor, Frederick George D’Utassy, would be elected colonel of the regiment despite his somewhat shadowy past. It would not take long for the men of the Garibaldi Guard to realize that they were being commanded by one of the most outrageous, thieving rogues ever to wear the uniform of the Federal armies. Michael Bacarella, author of Lincoln’s Foreign Legion, does a creditable job of detailing the outlandish activities of D’Utassy.

The roster of the regiment is also very well-done, giving insight into the many different countries and walks of life from which men came to answer the call to arms during the Civil War. For someone interested in learning more about the role of foreigners during the war, Lincoln’s Foreign Legion: The 39th New York Infantry, The Garibaldi Guard is certainly worth a read.

B. Keith Toney