Cover image for Marching home : Union veterans and their unending Civil War
Title:
Marching home : Union veterans and their unending Civil War
Author:
Jordan, Brian Matthew, 1986- , author.
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York, N.Y. : Liveright Publishing Corporation, a division of W.W. Norton & Company, [2014]
Physical Description:
vii, 374 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 25 cm
Summary:
For well over a century, traditional Civil War histories have concluded in 1865, with a bitterly won peace and Union soldiers returning triumphantly home. In a landmark work that challenges sterilized portraits accepted for generations, Civil War historian Brian Matthew Jordan creates an entirely new narrative. These veterans--tending rotting wounds, battling alcoholism, campaigning for paltry pensions--tragically realized that they stood as unwelcome reminders to a new America eager to heal, forget, and embrace the freewheeling bounty of the Gilded Age. Mining previously untapped archives, Jordan uncovers anguished letters and diaries, essays by amputees, and gruesome medical reports, all deeply revealing of the American psyche.
Language:
English
Contents:
When this cruel war was "over" -- A day for songs and contests -- Stranger at the gates -- Ithaca at last -- Living monuments -- Captive memories -- A debt of honor -- This degradation of souls -- Parade rest.
ISBN:
9780871407818
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

For well over a century, traditional Civil War histories have concluded in 1865, with a bitterly won peace and Union soldiers returning triumphantly home. In a landmark work that challenges sterilized portraits accepted for generations, Civil War historian Brian Matthew Jordan creates an entirely new narrative. These veterans-- tending rotting wounds, battling alcoholism, campaigning for paltry pensions-- tragically realized that they stood as unwelcome reminders to a new America eager to heal, forget, and embrace the freewheeling bounty of the Gilded Age. Mining previously untapped archives, Jordan uncovers anguished letters and diaries, essays by amputees, and gruesome medical reports, all deeply revealing of the American psyche.

In the model of twenty-first-century histories like Drew Gilpin Faust's This Republic of Suffering or Maya Jasanoff 's Liberty's Exiles that illuminate the plight of the common man, Marching Home makes almost unbearably personal the rage and regret of Union veterans. Their untold stories are critically relevant today.


Author Notes

Brian Matthew Jordan is an assistant professor of history at Sam Houston State University, where he teaches courses on the Civil War and Reconstruction, and is the winner of Yale University's John Addison Porter Prize.


Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Civilian Americans have always had difficulties acknowledging and dealing with the problems soldiers face in their transition from warriors to veterans, and the Civil War was no exception. As historian Jordan demonstrates in his engrossing debut outing, for the men of the Union Army, the war didn't end with Appomattox. Picking up at that point, where most studies of the Civil War conclude, Jordan challenges scholars like Gerald F. Linderman who maintain that "Billy Yank" eagerly suppressed his wartime experiences and embraced peacetime. Jordan convincingly shows that from the time of Lee's surrender, veterans found themselves still bound to the war, struggling with its meaning and trying to make sense of their military service. Even as the majority of the public wanted to put the war aside, former soldiers participated in anniversary events and reunions, subscribed to the growing number of veterans' newspapers, and joined the veterans' organization called the Grand Army of the Republic. To preserve and disseminate their memories, veterans wrote and published regimental histories, personal memoirs, and war sketches. They did all this while coping with the consequences of their service: unemployment, alcoholism, and physical injuries and disabilities, including amputated limbs. Jordan's thoughtful, well-researched book exposes the under-acknowledged realities faced by Civil War veterans-with disturbing echoes in the modern era. Illus. (Jan.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Library Journal Review

With forceful arguments and compelling prose, Jordan (Civil War-era studies, Gettysburg Coll.) turns conventional wisdom on the postwar world upside down by showing that poverty, alcoholism, sickness, mental illness, public neglect, and even contempt marked the lives of returning Union soldiers. Jordan argues that rather than understanding veterans' needs, too many civilians insisted they get on with their lives. Civilians rushed toward reconciliation with Southerners to patch up the Union and focus on "progress," while Union veterans insisted the nation not forget the causes and costs of the war and give soldiers and emancipated slaves their due. In their memoirs, monuments, veterans' organizations, and lobbying for benefits, the veterans refused to concede their history to those who wanted to romanticize the war and forget what the soldiers had sacrificed. Jordan overstates historians' supposed neglect of the issue, the indifference of Northern civilians to the veterans' plight, and the extent of veterans' inability to adjust to "coming home." However, the author has written a brilliant and bracing study of Civil War soldiers' efforts to adapt to a peacetime environment that had no place for them and even considered them a burden on public resources. VERDICT This work speaks to our day as we struggle to understand and do justice to veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan and make the country accountable for the promises made to those who served. [See Prepub Alert, 7/21/14.] Randall M. Miller, St. Joseph's Univ., Philadelphia (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Choice Review

Jordan (Gettysburg College) provides an eye-opening analysis of how Union soldiers battled with their wounds, both physical and emotional, after the Civil War. This topic has received little historical attention given the veterans' status as the conflict's heroic victors and the respect bestowed upon them by their home population. Jordan elucidates on the wide spectrum of challenges that awaited these veterans as they reintegrated back into society. Many had problems with the pensions system; others dealt with wartime amputations or variations of posttraumatic psychological stress. Still others struggled with just securing the necessities of life and found a primary source of assistance with fellow veterans with the Grand Army of the Republic, which served as a de facto welfare institution for former soldiers. The book's well-constructed prose is undergirded by impeccable primary source research; the endnotes are nearly as long as the narrative itself. Although Jordan's assessment of veterans does lack perspective on just how universal these issues were with the entire body of Union veterans, this monograph is most certainly a trailblazing work on the topic and insightful to similar issues in today's civil-military relations. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries. --Bradford A. Wineman, Marine Corps University


Table of Contents

Introduction: When This Cruel War Was "Over"p. 1
1 A Day for Songs and Contestsp. 9
2 Stranger at the Gatesp. 41
3 Ithaca at Lastp. 67
4 Living Monumentsp. 105
5 Captive Memoriesp. 131
6 A Debt of Honorp. 151
7 This Degradation of Soulsp. 170
Epilogue: Parade Restp. 192
Acknowledgmentsp. 205
Notesp. 211
Bibliographyp. 305
Image Creditsp. 355
Indexp. 357