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Antebellum fitness club

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As we all know, the pre-war Zouave Movement was well established and expanding; and its popularity was partly in response to a need for 'productive activity' among young men, moving to the city from the country. The Zouaves, with their French/North Africa-inspired uniforms, focused on athleticism, gymnastic drill, group precision, and marksmanship. They also advocated self discipline, and promoted a moral code. One goal of the Zouaves appears to have been 'to make the organization (and its component parts) a focus of admiration and respect among the community-at-large.' Elmer Ellsworth was the face of the Zouave Movement; several Zouave regiments were present at the Battle of Shiloh (both sides.)


But there were other organizations that combined athleticism with moral guidance, in a social setting. The first of these was the Turners. Established in 1811 in Berlin as the 'Turnverein,' by Friedrich Ludwig Jahn (the man who, coincidentally, designed gymnastic equipment: parallel bars, horse, rings), the Turner Society found its way to America after the failed Revolutions of 1848. German immigrants, many of whom had participated as Forty-eighters, settled in cities like Boston, Cincinnati, Davenport, St Louis and Milwaukee, and established branches of the Turners. Mostly found in Northern cities, and mostly supportive of the 1860 election of Abraham Lincoln, the Turners were very supportive of the Union war effort: offering their Halls as temporary accomodation for mustering troops; getting up companies of 'Germans' for active service. The two best known Union generals with a connection to the Turners (and the Revolutions of 1848) were Franz Sigel and Carl Schurz. But, Turner Society members were present at Shiloh, most significantly as part of the 2nd Iowa, 9th Illinois and 43rd Illinois regiments.


The YMCA was founded in London in 1844 by George Williams, who saw 'a need for healthy activities for young tradesmen, drawn to the cities.' By 1851, the YMCA arrived in Boston, with the goal: to develop the whole individual, in mind, body and spirit. Unlike masses of Turners, when the Civil War commenced, most members of the YMCA joined up, North and South, willy-nilly. And, there was a core element of the YMCA, best described as 'pacifist.' Their focus was on spiritual growth. Five thousand of these decided 'non-combatants' became surgeons, nurses and chaplains during the war (possibly the best known being the poet, Walt Whitman.) D.L. Moody helped establish the YMCA at Chicago in the 1850s. After the Battle of Shiloh, Moody joined the United States Christian Commission (which appears to have been affiliated with the YMCA) and conducted many YMCA members to Pittsburg Landing, arriving by April 11th. They returned north aboard paddle steamers, acting as nurses and 'spiritual healers' to the hundreds of wounded men in their care.








http://www.ymca.net/history/1800-1860s.html     (YMCA)


http://www.ulib.iupui.edu/special/collections/german-american/mss030     (Turner Society)


http://www.historynet.com/elmer-ellsworth-and-his-zouaves.htm     (Zouave Movement)



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I've read that early on, first few months of the war, there was one Turner company (9th OVI) 'dressed in white,' and others attempted to incorporate 'green and red' into the color of their uniform (41st NY Inf). Tassles and 'badges' were added to the 'Federal Army blue uniform' later, in an attempt by Turners to distinguish themselves from others.


from Don Troiani's Regiments and Uniforms of the Civil War  by Michael J. McAfee; Stackpole Books: Mechanicsburg, Penn., 2002. (Page 38.)







post-550-0-09031800-1425951998_thumb.jpg     (41st NY as toy soldiers, from www.acwtoysoldiers.com)

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While researching Adolph Metzner, sketch artist for the 32nd Indiana Infantry, discovered that the 32nd Indiana was a German regiment (initially called "1st Indiana German Regiment") with many members who had prior association with the Turner Society (Turnverein) and their Commanding Officer, Colonel August Willich, made use of the German language, exclusively, when directing the activities of his regiment. The 32nd Indiana was assigned to the Army of the Ohio, 2nd Division (McCook), 6th Brigade (Gibson) and was employed at Shiloh on Day 2 between Lew Wallace's 3rd Division and Sherman's 5th Division. (Lew Wallace made special mention of the impressive performance of Willich's Regiment in his Autobiography.)

Prior to his leadership of the 32nd Indiana, August Willich had been Adjutant of the 9th Ohio Infantry (previously mentioned in a post, above.) Initially called the "1st Ohio German Regiment" the 9th OVI was assigned to the Army of the Ohio,1st Division, 3rd Brigade (Robert McCook) and missed participation in Battle of Shiloh because George Thomas was at the back of the line of march from Nashville to Savannah. (The 9th Ohio had "Mill Springs" on their Battle Flag.)

The sketches of Adolph Metzner illustrate the uniform worn by the 32nd Indiana: (from Library of Congress)

1st German Indiana.png


[Although not evident in above image, the wide-brimmed, high crowned hat, as worn by the officer, appears to have gained favor of the enlisted men: later images show almost exclusive wearing of that hat by members of the 32nd Indiana.]



References:   http://www.loc.gov/resource/ppmsca.51219/  Metzner Collection at LOC

http://scholarworks.iu.edu/journals/index.php/imh/article/view/12296/18299  Review of Willich's Gallant Dutchmen

http://mki.wisc.edu/sites/mki.wisc.edu/files/Newsletter/MKI_Spring_2011.pdf  Newsletter (see pages 12- 13)

http://9thohioinfantry.yolasite.com   History of 9th OVI  (die Neuner)

http://32ndindianainfantry.yolasite.com/  History of 32nd Indiana Infantry




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