“In the spring of 1864, as the armies of the American Civil War were preparing for one last push towards victory, another conflict erupted across the Atlantic when Prussia and Austria invaded Denmark. The Danish American sailor Christian Ditlev Koch and his family found themselves in the middle of both these conflicts, and their extensive correspondence housed at LSU’s Special Collections is a testimony to the intrinsic transnational nature of much historical writing.”
Thus says Anders B. Rasmussen, currently conducting research on the American Civil War – more specifically, what the war meant personally, socially, and politically to Danish immigrants and Danish Americans on the battlefield as well as the home front.
Rasmussen received his doctorate (2011) from the University of Southern Denmark, where he has since taught courses in American studies and American history. He spent the spring of 2013 as a visiting scholar at Columbia University while writing the recently published Dansk Blod i Amerikas Borgerkrig, currently being translated into English as Danish Blood in America’s Civil War. (For more information, visit http://zetland.dk/dansk-blod-i-amerikas-borgerkrig/.) Rasmussen’s work on Scandinavian American participation in the American Civil War takes a transnational and new-cultural-history approach to the study of the United States’ most important conflict.
Rasmussen notes that “in the years leading up to the Civil War, Danish-born sailor Christian Koch had settled in Mississippi, where he married Annette Netto, but he also made frequent trips to – and comments about – Europe. The result is a unique lens into life on both sides of the Atlantic during the tumultuous times in the middle of the nineteenth century.”
During a recent visit to Hill Memorial Library to consult the Christian D. Koch and Family Papers (Mss. 202), Rasmussen commented, “The Koch family collection, containing letters written in both Danish and English, simultaneously offers a unique Scandinavian perspective on life in the South. The vast majority of surviving primary sources from Scandinavian American Civil War participants is found in the Midwest. The Koch collection, however, located in Baton Rouge, provides an important addition to these Northern accounts.”
Rasmussen hopes to incorporate the discoveries made at LSU in a journal article as well as a forthcoming popular history book on the Danish American Civil War experience.