Eight descendants of Johann Paul Jünger the Germanic immigrant patriarch of the Yingers of York County, Pennsylvania participated in the American Civil War from 1861 through 1865. They were either great grandsons or great-great grandsons of Johann Paul Jünger. Collectively they had the complete range of experiences as soldiers while serving in Pennsylvania regiments.
They experienced the drudgery and boredom of marching, drilling and camp life in general. They felt the emotional draw of the families they left back home. Their long days of boring camp life were sometimes punctuated with sheer terror and horror on the battlefield. Of the eight, one made the ultimate sacrifice when Abraham Yinger was killed in the Union disaster at Cold Harbor, Virginia on June 1, 1864.
One fatality out of eight represents a rate of 12.5%. This rate closely approximates the overall death rate of 13.42% for all Civil War soldiers Union and Confederate combined that was presented in the introduction to this section of the web site.
At least one of the eight endured a miserable experience of adult measles that was so intense it left him temporarily blind. George K. Yinger suffered the rest of his life with the lingering effects of this disease contracted while he was in the army in 1861. This punctuates the common reality that more soldiers during the war died from disease than battle wounds.
Even the most contemplative and analytical participants and leaders of the American Civil War struggled to comprehend and explain the collective insanity and race toward mutual destruction it precipitated. Gross miscalculations and understatement of the probable human and material losses were made by both sides at the outset. Clearly, passionate emotions superseded rational assessment by a wide margin.
When the Civil War ended with the surrender of the Confederate armies, the Union was preserved and slavery was abolished. However, the process of reconstruction in the southern states where the war had been primarily waged was a difficult experience fraught with its own set of problems.
Freedom did not equate to equality for the former slaves of the defeated southern Confederate States. While southern leaders renounced slavery they did not embrace the former slaves as full citizens within their individual state borders. A series of laws referred to as “Jim Crow” laws were designed and implemented to perpetuate white supremacy and second-class citizenship for the blacks.
This situation existed for a hundred years in the south after the Civil War ended in 1865. Not until the mid-1960s did the Federal Government pass civil rights laws extending equal rights and protections to blacks including the right to vote.
During the intervening period considerable violence against former slaves occurred including beatings, murder and lynching. White society maintained segregation of the black population in every imaginable venue including public schooling, restaurants, employment, public transportation, and toilets.
In the aftermath of the Civil War the southern economy suffered severe long-term poverty well into the twentieth century. Former wealthy white elite plantation owners were forced to subdivide their plantations into tenant farms where sharecroppers who were former slaves eked out a subsistence standard of living. Income for Whites was also significantly less as well.
Following the Civil War in the north industrialization and urbanization continued at an accelerating pace. In his memoirs U.S. Grant made some astute observations in this regard which follow:
“It is probably well that we had the war when we did. We are better off now than we would have been without it, and have made more rapid progress than we otherwise should have made. The civilized nations of Europe have been stimulated into unusual activity, so that commerce, trade, travel, and thorough acquaintance among people of different nationalities, has become common; whereas, before, it was but the few who had ever had the privilege of going beyond the limits of their own country or who knew anything about other people…
Prior to the rebellion the great mass of the people were satisfied to remain near the scenes of their birth. In fact an immense majority of the whole people did not feel secure against coming to want should they move among entire strangers. So much was the country divided into small communities that localized idioms had grown up, so that you could almost tell what section a person was from by hearing him speak…
The war begot a spirit of independence and enterprise. The feeling now is, that a youth must cut loose from his old surroundings to enable him to get up in the world. There is now such a commingling of the people that particular idioms and pronunciation are no longer localized to any great extent; the country has filled up ‘from the centre all around to the sea’; railroads connect the two oceans and all parts of the interior; maps, nearly perfect, of every part of the country are now furnished the student of geography.”
This section of the web site is intended to focus on the participation of our Yinger ancestors in the American Civil war from 1861 to 1865. An extended discussion of the challenges of the reconstruction era from 1865 to 1877 when all Union military forces left the southern states and the decades following is beyond the scope of that focus.
However, it is sufficient to summarize that the Northern and Southern states within the United States of America continued on very different paths for many decades beyond the formal end to the reconstruction era as briefly alluded to above.
Beyond the issue of slavery, the other fundamental issue for which the American Civil War was fought was the issue of “Federalism” versus “States Rights.” While slavery was abolished forever and eventually equal rights were extended to the African American citizens, the issue of a strong centralized national government with overarching and superseding authority still stirs passionate debate across America.
The Union was preserved in the conflict and the oneness of the United States as a single nation was affirmed. However, many issues regularly pop up on the national stage and across the individual states from north to south and east to west eliciting intense debate about whether the Federal Government ought to have the right to force individual States to do or not do one thing or another.
As I write this conclusion in 2010 about my Yinger ancestors in the Civil War, several issues of hot public debate are in the headlines and on the minds of Americans on the issue of “Federalism” versus “States Rights”:
1. Out of control illegal immigration across the southern border of the United States with Mexico has prompted states like Arizona to propose stricter defense measures to try to “indentify, prosecute and deport illegal immigrants.” The Governor of Arizona has stated that the new strict state regulation “represents another tool for our state to use as we work to solve a crisis we did not create and the federal government has refused to fix.”
The Federal Government is in the process of challenging the proposed Arizona legislation on grounds that it is unconstitutional (perhaps on the grounds of unreasonable search and seizure) and because Washington D.C. officials assert the sovereign right of the Federal Government to enforce immigration laws.
2. The nation’s health care system and the financing thereof is a runaway freight train. The annual rate of inflation of health care costs and insurance rates for health insurance are well into the double digits outpacing the overall inflation rate many fold. Tens of millions of Americans are without health insurance which is a recipe for personal financial disaster. The status quo system and its component parts of health service providers, hospitals, physicians, pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies & etc. indicates no credible intention or effort toward addressing the crisis. Simple greed is perceived by many individual citizens as being a primary contributing factor to the growing disaster.
In response to the rising outcry from individual citizens, businesses and others, President Obama proposed sweeping legislation in an attempt to address the problem. Part of the Federal legislation involves a requirement that individual States create statewide health insurance programs to provide coverage of uninsured citizens of their states without providing the necessary level of Federal financial support for the mandated programs to the state coffers.
Attorneys general from 20 States are filing a law suit in a Federal court in Pensacola. They allege that President Obama’s universal health care plan is unconstitutional. They are arguing that the federal government can’t force individuals to buy health insurance and that the plan will be a disaster for State budgets.
The suit has been characterized as “the most significant case with regard to the power of the federal government to push the states around. Our whole system of federalism rests on the decision of this court.”
3. As a final example of the issue of “Federalism” versus “States Rights” presently there is a growing disgust in the American populace with anything done in the national capital of Washington D.C. Citizen’s mistrust congress and national politicians on both the Republican and Democratic sides of the aisle.
The Federal Government is perceived by many Americans as fiscally incompetent and self serving. Getting and staying elected seems to be the highest priority if not the only priority of elected officials in Washington. Federal deficit spending has risen from half a trillion dollars a year to one and a half trillion a year overnight. National debt has risen from about 5.5 trillion dollars at the beginning of George W. Bush’s Presidency to over 13 trillion dollars in just the second year of President Obama’s Presidency.
Unfunded future obligations for Federal entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare exceed 50 trillion dollars in present value amounts. In short the nation’s finances are in a mess and many are wondering anew whether the problem is a result of having a huge centralized Federal government detached and out of touch with the “real world” in the heartland of America.
Many Americans rightly are worried about the mess we are creating for our children and grandchildren to deal with. It is morally reprehensible to live beyond our means individually or as a culture expecting unborn future generations to pick up the tab.
It would be very easy to stop with these negative assessments of the down side of a strong centralized government that men like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison foresaw. But in the interest of balance several examples of the benefits of “Federalism” in American history should be cited.
Rarely are there clear examples of a just cause to go to war in human history. World War II stands out in my mind as a stellar example. Had America not responded to the threats of fascism from Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany, the world might have been plunged into unimaginable darkness in the 1940s.
Had the Union been dissolved in the American Civil War in the 1860s the resulting loose confederation of individual states would have been a far less credible power to turn back the tide of aggression from Hitler and Hirohito in the 1940s. If the idea that ”States Rights” should come before and above a strong centralized “Federal” government had prevailed in the Civil War, I doubt America could have won the day in World War II.
A strong centralized government in the United States has contributed many other collective benefits to American civilization including:
1. The interstate highway system, railroads and air traffic system
No doubt these are only a very small sample of the benefits, as I see them, of a strong central “Federal” government. The debate of the pros versus the cons will probably continue with valid points and proponents on both sides for as long as the Republic exits.
Copyright © 2009-2011 Samuel E. Yinger. All rights reserved.