Marching Home: Union Veterans and Their Unending Civil War

Marching Home: Union Veterans and Their Unending Civil War

Brian Matthew Jordan

Language: English

Pages: 400

ISBN: 1631491466

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


An acclaimed, groundbreaking, and “powerful exploration” (Washington Post) of the fate of Union veterans, who won the war but couldn’t bear the peace.

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.

8 pages of illustrations

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Box 1, Folder 1, NHHS; Erie L. Ditty, “Memoirs of a Lieutenant in the Civil War,” in Stearns Family Papers—Civil War Correspondence, Box 4, Folder 2, Carol Newman Library, Virginia Polytechnic Institute; Lyman Jackman, diary entries, 30 September 1865, 6 May 1874, and 12 May 1874, in Lyman Jackman Diaries, 1862–1901, NHHS; Veterans of the War Whom All Should Assist: Almanac and History of the Late Rebellion, 1860–1865 (New York: Soldiers’ & Sailors’ Publishing Co., 1869); Souvenir, Principal

1866; James W. North, The History of Augusta, from the Earliest Settlement to the Present Time (Augusta, Maine: Clapp & North, 1870), 771–772; Report of the Board of Managers of the National Asylum for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, July 18, 1867, Serial Set vol. 1312, no. 1 (40th Congress, 1st Session): 10; Report of the President of the Board of Managers of the National Asylum for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, March 3, 1868, Serial Set vol. 1350, no. 2 (40th Congress, 2nd Session): 2; Lewis B.

“Veterans of Iraq War, Some Argue, Also Deserve a Parade.” New York Times, 7 February 2012. Thackery, David T. A Light and Uncertain Hold: A History of the Sixty-Sixth Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1999. Trail, Susan W. “Remembering Antietam: Commemoration and Preservation of a Civil War Battlefield.” Ph.D. diss., University of Maryland, College Park, 2005. Trenerry, Walter N. “Last Campaign of the Civil War: Aged Minnesota Veteran Takes on the GAR.”

survivors expected to forget their dead comrades?” he asked. As survivors, veterans felt a genuine sense of “duty,” both to remember their fallen comrades and to find some enduring meaning in their demise. “Who can forget the days of mad frenzy of battle, when bullets whizzed and screamed, and shells burst, taking the life of one and the limb of another comrade at our side?” While storming the rebel earthworks in the opening federal assaults around Petersburg, Virginia, on June 16, 1864, Stephen

senators, and seven northern governors were in place. At nine o’clock, the soldiers received orders to step off. General Meade, his headquarters staff, and their escort, a squadron of the First Massachusetts Cavalry, stepped off first—followed by the cavalry corps, the provost marshal’s brigade, the engineers, and then three divisions of the Ninth Corps. The crowds filled the air with their wild applause. Many of the spectators had traveled several days to witness the review, and they delighted

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