Lincoln’s Death, New Nation: April 1865 to 1877

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How many Chinese persons served in the Civil War?

Far more than we might think! One of the best estimates is that something like twenty-five Chinese fought at one time or another. The single best-known case, thanks to reporting in the New York Times in March 1864, is that of John Fouenty (of course, this is a transliteration of his actual Chinese name).

Though he came from a well-to-do family in China, John Fouenty was kidnapped (or shanghaied) and made to serve as a coolie on a ship to Cuba. Four years later, at about the age of twelve, his four-year forced service was over, and he made his way to Savannah, where he worked in a cigar manufactory. Sometime in 1862, when he was still quite young, Fouenty was persuaded to serve in the Confederate army. He served one year, then made his way to St. Augustine, and from there to Washington, D.C. He showed no desire to serve in the Union Army, and may—like many other foreigners—have been confused about the reasons for which the war was fought.


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