Lincoln Battalion

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Members of the Lincoln Battalion at Jarama, 1937

The Lincoln Battalion was an international unit that fought in the Spanish Civil War 1936-1939 on the part of the Republican government of Spain against the insurgent fascist troops under General Francisco Franco . It was under the command of the XV. International Brigade . It was named after the President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln . Later received the XV. International Brigade honored Abraham Lincoln . After the Battle of Brunete , the Lincoln Battalion was merged with the Washington Battalion after heavy losses . The battalion was named the Lincoln-Washington Battalion . In addition, the XV. International Brigade after the Battle of Brunete given the honorary name Lincoln-Washington Brigade.

The members of the Lincoln battalion were left wing, but not all Communists. They were united by the determination to defend the Spanish Republic against fascism, for which the USA had not found a majority, which is why the country remained neutral.

During the Spanish Civil War 2,800 American volunteers fought in Spain. A total of between 750 and 800 died from fatal wounds or illness.

The first American brigadists

Due to the neutrality as the official position of the government of the United States, donations were collected at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War. The money collected was officially used for medical care or to supply the Spanish republic with food.

In addition, a committee to support the Spanish Republic, the North American Committee to Aid Spanish Democracy, was founded . Supporters of the committee included prominent left-wing figures Upton Sinclair , Theodore Dreiser , Martha Gellhorn , Sinclair Lewis and Dorothy Parker . The headquarters of the committee was located in New York near Union Square , on the ninth floor of the building of the Central Committee of the Communist Party (PCUSA) . The committee raised $ 100,000 within 7 weeks of being formed. In addition, as of May 1937, the committee employed 25 full-time staff in its 131 offices.

Members of the committee committee were Fred Brown (née Alpi), a Comintern representative of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union , Earl Browder , the Secretary General of PCUSA, Charles Krumbein , a member of the Politburo of PCUSA, and Bill Lawrence , who later volunteered Albacete , the training camp of the International Brigades , set out.

Allan Young , a former United States officer, was appointed to lead the organization of volunteers. The first American volunteers were almost entirely New Yorkers, but volunteers soon began arriving from Boston , Philadelphia, and various parts of Ohio . The committee paid the volunteers $ 1.50 a day for groceries, $ 10 for passports, $ 50 for equipment purchases, and travel expenses.

The first organized American volunteers sailed on the sailing ship Normandie as third class passengers on December 26, 1936 from New York to Le Havre in France. The 76 volunteers reached Le Havre on January 2nd. After arriving in Le Havre, the volunteers made their way to Figueres in Spain via Paris and Perpignan , probably, as usual, crossing the state border between France and Spain via the Pyrenees at night. After spending the night in the castle of Sant Ferran in Figueres, the volunteers continued on the next day by train via Barcelona and Valencia to Albacete , the training camp of the International Brigades .

Flag of the Lincoln Battalion

After the arrival of the American volunteer contingent on January 8th at 10 am, the General Commissioner of the International Brigades, Luigi Longo , was pleasantly surprised by the well-equipped American volunteers. After a few days the volunteers were ordered from Albacete to Villanueva de la Jara .

The official formation of the Lincoln Battalion took place on January 31, 1936 with about 450 American volunteers. In addition, the battalion was classified in the XV. International Brigade. The first in command was Martin Hourihan from Pennsylvania.

In addition to the Irish Connolly Column , the Latin American Centuria Guttieras were assigned to the Lincoln Battalion . The Lincoln Battalion was also referred to as the 17th Battalion of the International Brigades .

Lincoln Battalion

Battle of the Jarama

View of the Jarama river in the town of Titulcia
Flag of a unit of the Lincoln Battalion

On February 15, the Lincoln battalion was ordered from Villanueva de la Jara to Albacete , where André Marty gave a speech to the battalion. The following day, February 16, after less than two months of training, the battalion was ordered to the front in Madrid on the Jarama River , where it relieved the exhausted Saklatvala battalion from the front in the Battle of the Jarama on February 23 . After moving from positions overlooking the heights of Pingarrón, the so-called Suicide Hill , the Lincoln battalion received the order to attack from János Gálicz (General Gal). In the attack, the battalion suffered considerable losses without the heights of Pingarrón could be taken. On February 27th, the battalion commander, the American Robert Hale Merriman , received another order from General Gal to take Suicide Hill without artillery support. Around noon, the Lincoln battalion attacked the hill again without it being captured.

In this attack, the Lincoln battalion lost more than 110 brigadists with a strength of 263, whereupon the American brigadists mutinied and almost lynched the British commander in charge. They refused to return to the front until the Lincoln battalion had designated its own commander. The commandant was the African American Oliver Law . One soldier said after the attack: "The Abraham Lincoln Battalion was named after Abraham Lincoln because he was also murdered." Among the wounded was battalion commander Robert Hale Merriman with a serious wound to his shoulder. After the failed attack by the International Brigades, the front calmed down. Furthermore, the Lincoln battalion had to be reorganized after the Battle of Jarama.

Battle of Brunete

After the Battle of Jarama, the Lincoln Battalion fought together with the newly established Washington Battalion from the second day of the Battle of Brunete near Villanueva de la Cañada . The Lincoln Battalion and the Washington Battalion attacked the north end of the village, while the Saklatvala Battalion and Dimitrov Battalion attacked from the south. The Lincoln and Washington battalions were used against nationalist positions at Mosquito Ridge ( Villaviciosa de Odón ) after the capture of the city of Villanueva de la Cañada . Both battalions, however, were unable to throw the nationalist troops out of their positions. On July 9, 1937, the commander of the Lincoln Battalion, Oliver Law, fell . The new commander of the Lincoln battalion was Steve Nelson . Due to the heavy losses, the Lincoln battalion was disbanded during the Battle of Brunete on July 12, 1937. It was united with the Washington Battalion on July 14, 1937 to form the Lincoln-Washington Battalion. Mirko Markovics , an American of Yugoslav origin, became the commander , and Steve Nelson became the political officer.

Lincoln Washington Battalion

Battle of Belchite

View of the destroyed Belchite

During the Battle of Belchite , from August through September 1937, the Lincoln-Washington Battalion fought at the beginning of the Battle of Quinto . The offensive began with a combined offensive led by T-26 tanks. After hard fighting, the battalion managed to capture the village of Quinto after two days. After the capture of Quinto, the Lincoln-Washington battalion advanced on Belchite . Belchite was an acid test for the Lincoln-Washington battalion due to the massive house-to-house fighting. The battalion suffered heavy losses, especially when the church was stormed. Brigadists Wallace Burton , Henry Eaton and Samuel Levinger , among others , died in the fighting , and brigadists Steve Nelson and Hans Amlie were injured in the fighting in Belchite. After the Battle of Belchite the XV. International Brigade reorganized. The newly formed Canadian Mackenzie Papineau Battalion became part of the XV. International Brigade. In addition, brigadists of the Dimitrov Battalion were in the XV. International Brigade grouped.

The Lincoln-Washington Battalion fought again on October 13, 1937 on the Aragon Front near Fuentes de Ebro . During these battles, the 24th Republican Brigade advanced with tank support, with the international battalions following the tanks. In this attack, which failed, the Lincoln-Washington battalion suffered significantly fewer casualties than the Canadian Mackenzie Papineau battalion and the 24th Republican Brigade. After the fighting at Fuentes de Ebro, the XV. International brigade ordered in reserve.

Battle of Teruel

At the end of December the Lincoln-Washington battalion was ordered to Teruel . In the Republican winter offensive , during one of the coldest winters in years, the Republicans attempted to capture Teruel. The Lincoln-Washington Battalion occupied positions within the city of Teruel and then positions on the heights around the city of Teruel. On January 19, the XV. International Brigade at the end of the Battle of Teruel positions on El Muletón mountain , about 25 kilometers north of the city of Teruel. In this area the nationalists tried to advance to the Alfambra river . The Republicans succeeded, with heavy losses, in preventing any further advance of the nationalists. These positions were held by the XV. International Brigade, including the Lincoln-Washington Battalion, until it was relieved. Before the XV. International Brigade was able to reach the reserve position, it was transferred to Segura de los Baño near Vivel del Rio Martin .

Franco's Aragon offensive

In March, prior to the Aragon offensive , the Lincoln-Washington Battalion was in Aragon in reserve. After heavy artillery and aircraft bombing on March 7, 1938, the attack of three nationalist armies on the republican front line between the Ebro and Vivel del Rio Martin began during the Aragon offensive . The nationalist troops managed to break through the front in several places on the first day. General Juan Yagüe advanced on the western bank of the Ebro and broke through all defensive positions in front of him. On March 10, the nationalists captured Belchite , which was occupied by the XV. International Brigade was defended. Heavy attacks by nationalist tanks and aircraft forced the Abraham Lincoln Battalion to withdraw along the Ebro. On April 2, 1938, during fighting near the important city of Gandesa , 20 kilometers from the Ebro River, Robert Hale Merriman , the commander of the Abraham Lincoln Battalion, and his lieutenant Edgar James Cody were either killed in action or liquidated after their capture . Furthermore, 140 American and British soldiers of the XV. International Brigade in captivity, causing the Lincoln-Washington battalion to lose most of its brigadists during Franco's Aragon offensive . The remainder of the battalion gathered on the eastern side of the Ebro, where the battalion was filled with Spanish conscripts, so that in the Abraham Lincoln battalion mainly Spanish conscripts served.

Battle of the Ebro

In July 1938, the reorganized Lincoln-Washington Battalion fought in the Battle of the Ebro , the final Republican offensive. On July 25, at 12:15 a.m. on a moonless night, Republican units began to cross the Ebro. Upstream the XV. International Brigade with other Republican units crossed the river. After the offensive at Gandesa had collapsed, the Lincoln-Washington battalion with the Mackenzie Papineau battalion and Saklatvala battalion held height 666 in the Serra de Pàndols . The headquarters of the XV. International Brigade was located 300 meters from the Serra del Crestall- Gandesa road, a few meters from the front , during the fighting for Hill 66 .

Dissolution of the battalion

In September the Republican government decided to disband the International Brigades. They were withdrawn from the Ebro Front by the decision of the Spanish Prime Minister Juan Negrín , in the hope that the nationalists, the German Condor Legion and the Italian Corpo Troop Volontarie, would also withdraw from Spain. American brigadists from all over Spain were sent to Ripoll , where the International Red Cross and the US government checked American citizenship. After the farewell parade in Barcelona on October 28, 1938 , the International Brigades, with the Lincoln-Washington Battalion, were officially dissolved.

Around 2,800 Americans served as brigadists during the Spanish Civil War. More than 700 were killed in action or died from their injuries. Most American volunteers returned to the United States in December 1938 and January 1939, although the last American brigadists who had been captured did not return until September 1939.


Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade

Even later, some veterans of the battalion were politically active by publicly participating in demonstrations against the foreign policy of the United States , for example during the Vietnam War , the Second Gulf War or the Iraq War .

In 1990 the documentary film Forever Activists: Stories from the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade was made .

Known members

Commanders of the Lincoln Battalion

Political Commissars of the Lincoln Battalion

Other members of the Lincoln Battalion


  • Peter N. Carroll: The Odyssey of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. Americans in the Spanish Civil War. Stanford University Press, Stanford CA 1994, ISBN 0-8047-2276-5 .
  • Joe Brandt (Ed.): Black Americans in The Spanish People's War Against Fascism 1936-1939. Veterans Abraham Lincoln Brigade, New York NY 1979.
  • Arthur H. Landis : The Abraham Lincoln Brigade. The Citadell Press, New York 1967.
  • Richard Brautigan : Dreaming of Babylon ... A 1942 San Francisco crime story . 2011, ISBN 978-3-905802-18-4 . In the chapter The Abraham Lincoln Brigade the topic is processed literarily. Brautigan's antihero, private detective C. Card, fought with the battalion in the Spanish Civil War.

Web links

Commons : Abraham Lincoln Brigade  - Collection of Images, Videos, and Audio Files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ The Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives (ALBA): The Abraham Lincoln Brigade. Retrieved August 13, 2013.
  2. Sam Sills: The Abraham Lincoln Brigade of the Spanish Civil War. 2007, accessed August 13, 2013.
  3. ^ The Spanish Civil War: Black and White in a Murky, Ambiguous World. In: The New York Times . Retrieved August 13, 2013.
  4. Hugh Thomas : The Spanish Civil War. Ullstein Verlag, 1967, p. 304.
  5. ^ A b Antony Beevor : The Spanish Civil War. 2nd Edition. Goldmann, Munich 2008, ISBN 978-3-442-15492-0 , (a) p. 274, (b) p. 405.
  6. ^ Richard Thorpe: A Brief History of the British Battalion of the International Brigades, 1936–1938. 2009, accessed August 13, 2013.