Abraham Lincoln Brigade

Abraham Lincoln Brigade

The Abraham Lincoln Brigade refers to volunteers from the United States who served in the Spanish Civil War in the International Brigades. They fought for Spanish Republican forces against Franco and the Spanish Nationalists.


The name 'brigade' is a misnomer. In the Spanish Civil War, a brigade consisted of four to six battalions. ["Eby" (2007), p. vii] American volunteers mostly joined the two battalions (the Lincoln Battalion and the Washington Battalion) within XV International Brigade. The XV International Brigade was made up of six battalions of volunteers from nations around the globe, topped up with Spanish conscripts. ["Eby" (2007), p. 266]

As time went on, the name "Abraham Lincoln Brigade" became used loosely, in the United States, as shorthand to describe any unit with an American component. Volunteers from the United States also served with the Canadian Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion, the Regiment de Tren (transport), and the John Brown Anti-Aircraft Battery. North Americans also ran a very well-organized and well-equipped field hospital (funded and staffed by the "American Medical Bureau to Save Spanish Democracy").


The Abraham Lincoln Brigade was made up of volunteers from all walks of American life, and from all classes. Many of the people who volunteered for the Abraham Lincoln Brigade were official members of the Communist Party USA or affiliated with other socialist or anarchist organizations, such as the Uruguayan Hugo Fernández Artucio.fact|date=September 2008 Members of the Industrial Workers of the World ("Wobblies") were also represented. It is sometimes thought to be the first American military unit to be commanded by a black officer, Oliver Law. [http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/SPlawO.htm] Irish volunteers formed the Connolly Column of the battalion under the command of Frank Ryan. The column joined the American rather than the British battalion on nationalist grounds.



American volunteers began organizing and arriving in Spain in 1936. Centered in the town of Figueres, near the border with France, the brigade was organized in 1937 and trained by Robert Hale Merriman. The Lincolns suffered from poor training and inept leaders, including both Merriman and Law, who were selected for command primarily for political reasons. The battalion only had one capable commander, Steve Nelson, who took command too late to turn it into a truly effective combat unit.

By early 1937, its numbers had swelled from an initial 96 volunteers to around 450 members. In February 1937, the European powers comprising the League of Nations Non-Intervention Committee banned foreign national volunteers.

In 1939, under the administration of United States Attorney General Frank Murphy, who was appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the United States Department of Justice in Detroit indicted 16 alleged Communists and fellow travelers for having recruited volunteers for the Abraham Lincoln Brigade supporting Spanish Republican forces against Franco and the Nationalists. This earned Murphy censure from liberals. [ [http://www.stjohns.edu/media/3/0ff1ac2d1d54420cb2e56273a371a12e.pdf John Q. Barrett, Politicians, Attorneys General, Justices, and Parallels (2007)] ]


The International Brigade took part in several battles in Spain. They unsuccessfully defended the supply road between Valencia and Madrid in the Jarama Valley from February 1937 until June 1937. They were also present at the battles of Brunete, Zaragoza, Belchite, Teruel, and Ebro River.

The Brigade was a "cause célèbre" in some liberal and socialist circles in the United States. Some groups organized fundraising activities and supply drives to keep the brigade afloat. News of the brigade's high casualty rate and bravery in battle made them heroic figures to Americans opposing the rise of fascism. Paul Robeson was one high profile supporter, even going so far as to visit the Lincolns in the field in Spain and appearing in publicity photographs (the XV International Brigade had its own photographic unit).

The war dragged on and the Nationalist forces, supported by Nazi Germany under Hitler and Fascist Italy under Mussolini, gained victory after victory over the Spanish Republic, which was increasingly dominated by the Spanish Communist Party (PCE). The International Brigade was withdrawn from battle by the Spanish prime minister Juan Negrín in the spring 1938. Most of the surviving Lincolns were repatriated promptly afterwards.


During and after the Spanish Civil War, members of the brigade were viewed as supporters of the Soviet Union. Through the period of the Hitler-Stalin pact, Communist Lincoln Brigade veterans joined with the American Peace Mobilization in protesting U.S. support for Britain against Nazi Germany. [http://www.alba-valb.org/volpdf/vol_1941_02b.pdf] During and following World War II, particularly at the height of the Second Red Scare, the U.S. government considered former members of the brigade to be security risks. In fact, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover persuaded President Roosevelt to ensure that former ALB members fighting in U.S. Forces in World War II not be considered for commissioning as officers, or to have any type of positive distinction conferred upon them.

Anthem: "Valley of Jarama"

Members of the XV International Brigade adapted a song by Alex McDade to reflect the losses at the Battle of Jarama. Sung to the tune of the traditional country song "Red River Valley", it became their anthem.


Commanding officers

*Robert Hale Merriman
*Oliver Law
*Martin Hourihan
*Steve Nelson [A communist, Nelson became commander of the battalion on the first day (6 July 1937) of the Battle of Brunete, replacing Martin Hourihan who was badly wounded. Eby, p 184]
*Hans Amlie
*Milton Wolff, last surviving commander [cite news |first= |last= |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=Milton Wolff, 92, Dies; Anti-Franco Leader. |url=http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/17/obituaries/17wolff.html |quote=Milton Wolff, the last commander of the American volunteers who fought against Franco in the Spanish Civil War and the longtime commander of the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, died Monday in Berkeley, Calif. He was 92. |publisher=The New York Times |date=January 17, 2008 |accessdate=2008-03-25 ]

Other notable members

*Herman Bottcher - Earned two Distinguished Service Crosses in World War II [ [http://dlib.nyu.edu/findingaids/html/tamwag/valb.html Guide to the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Records 1933-2006] ]
*Edward A. Carter, Jr. - Earned the Medal of Honor in World War II.
*Carmelo Delgado Delgado - Puerto Rican Nationalist, among the first U.S. Citizens to die in the Spanish Civil War.
*George Sossenko - Also fought in the Durruti Column
*Robert Klonsky- One of the defendants in the Smith Act trial of the mid-1950s.

upporters of the Spanish Republicans

*Dashiell Hammett
*Lillian Hellman
*Gypsy Rose Lee
*Dorothy Parker
*Pablo Picasso
*Sam Yorty


Memorials & Awards

* Currently, there are three memorials dedicated to the veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade.
**The first is located on the campus of the University of Washington in Seattle.
**The second is located in James Madison Park in Madison, Wisconsin. [ [http://www.alba-valb.org/announcements/madison_monument_dedication.html ALBA - Announcements - Madison Monument dedication ] ]
**A third memorial to the veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade was dedicated on the Embarcadero in San Francisco, California on March 30, 2008.

* A Wisconsin high school student named Cody Haro won first place at the 2007 National History Day Competition for his project about the Abraham Lincoln Battalion. [ [http://www.lacrossetribune.com/articles/2007/06/29/aplusachievers/6-26%20history.txt La Crosse Tribune - 7.0 : Holmen High School junior Cody Haro takes first place in National History Day competition ] ]

In museums

In 2007, Facing Fascism: New York and the Spanish Civil War at the Museum of the City of New York examines the role that New Yorkers played in the conflict, as well as the political and social ideologies that motivated them to participate in activities ranging from rallying support, fundraising, and relief aid, to fighting — and sometimes dying — on the front lines in Spain. The stories of these New Yorkers will be told through photographs, letters, uniforms, weapons, and an array of personal and historical memorabilia.

ee also

* International Brigades
* Yankee Squadron
* Irish Socialist Volunteers in the Spanish Civil War
* Polish volunteers in the Spanish Civil War
* Jewish volunteers in the Spanish Civil War



*Beevor, Antony, "The Battle for Spain", 2006.
*Bermack, Richard. "The Front Lines of Social Change: Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade," Heyday Books, 2005. ISBN 1597140007
*Brandt, Joe (Ed.). "Black Americans In The Spanish People's War Against Fascism 1936-1939". New York: Veterans Abraham Lincoln Brigade, no date, ca. 1979.
*cite book |last=Carroll |first=Peter N. |authorlink= |coauthors=James D. Fernández |title=Facing Fascism: New York and the Spanish Civil War |year=2007 |publisher=New York University Press |isbn=0814716814
*Eby,Cecil. "Between the Bullet and the Lie: American Volunteers in the Spanish Civil War," New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1969.
*Eby, Cecil. "Comrades and Commissars", [http://psupress.org/books/titles/0-271-02910-2.html] 2007.
*Glazer, Peter. "Radical Nostalgia: Spanish Civil War Commemoration in America". New York: University of Rochester Press, 2005.
* Rolfe, Edwin. "The Lincoln Battalion: The Story of the Americans Who Fought in Spain in the International Brigades," New York: Random House, 1939.
*Thomas, Hugh, "The Spanish Civil War", 4th Rev. Ed. 2001.
* Yates, James. "Mississippi to Madrid: Memoir of a Black American in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade". Seattle: Open Hand Publishing, 1989. ISBN 0-940880-20-2.

External links

* [http://www.alba-valb.org/ The Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archive]
* [http://www.english.upenn.edu/~afilreis/88/abe-brigade.html An essay on the Lincolns]
* [http://www.unc.edu/~chaos1/intlbrigade.pdf "Some Men Put Up Their Lives"]
* [http://www.columbia.edu/cu/history/pdf/chr_vol1.pdf Columbia Historical Review "Dutch Involvement in the Spanish Civil War"]
* [http://www.nyu.edu/library/bobst/research/tam/alba_names.html List of Abraham Lincoln Brigade Volunteers] "New York University Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives"
* [http://www.nyu.edu/library/bobst/research/tam/alba_guides.html Online guide] to the archives of the Lincoln Brigade, Tamiment Library (New York).
* [http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=07/04/30/1321243 Fighting Fascism: The Americans - Women and Men - Who Fought In the Spanish Civil War] (Democracy Now! show, aired April 30, 2007)
* [http://www.mcny.org/exhibitions/current/462.html Facing Fascism] at the Museum of the City of New York ( [http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/24/arts/design/24fasc.html?pagewanted=1&ei=5088&en=de3b3162249027b3&ex=1332388800&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss New York Times] )

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