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Marching Home: Union Veterans and Their Unending Civil War 1st Edition

4.1 out of 5 stars 40 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0871407818
ISBN-10: 0871407817
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Liveright; 1 edition (January 26, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0871407817
  • ISBN-13: 978-0871407818
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.4 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #198,096 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Robin Friedman HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 28, 2015
Format: Hardcover
The Civil War is often referred to as the American Iliad. As shown in historian Brian Jordan's first book, "Marching Home: Union Veterans and their Unending Civil War" (2015), the story of Union veterans after the war deserves to be known as the American Odyssey. Jordan recently earned a PhD in History at Yale University and teaches at Gettysburg College. He prefaces each chapter in his moving, often heartrending story of the Union veterans with an apt quotation from Homer's Odyssey about the travails of the warrior Ulysses in returning home from Troy.

There is a massive literature on the American Iliad but a much smaller literature on the American Odyssey. Jordan has done an epic job in uncovering little used source material to let the soldiers speak for themselves. Jordan challenges the view held by some that the Union veterans somehow "hibernated" after the Civil War until, in the 1880s and 1890s, the efforts and remembrance, reconciliation, the establishment of Parks, and the like began. His book describes the activities of the veterans beginning with Appomattox. Jordan argues that many veterans were angry with the defeated rebels and physically and emotionally broken in the aftermath of the War. He also claims that the veterans largely opposed the policy of reconciliation that developed with the defeated South and the ignoring of the rights of the Freedpeople. Here are two examples. Jordan writes of a parade of veterans in New York City in August, 1865, seeking employment:

"GIVE US EMPLOYMENT TO SUPPORT OUR FAMILIES
We represent thousands of discharged soldiers and
sailors now asking for bread
Our last employers were Grant, Sherman
Sheridan, Meade, Hancock, and Hooker
WE ARE NOW THE SOLDIER CITIZENS.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Oh my gosh: almost 40% of this book consists of notes, bibliography & index -- but they certainly contain a wealth of research info for an enthusiast of the U.S. Civil War (1851-1865).

In this book the author analyzed what problems that Union soldiers encountered as they left their military life and tried to reintegrate into civilian life. Many had great difficulties in changing: many amputees lacked arms or legs to do most civilian jobs back then that required at least the use of two hands -- many Northerners didn't want to hire the handicapped; Unionists developed job-help newspapers in offering work for the disabled.

Many Union soldiers suffered from what we now recognize as "PTSD": post-(combat) stress disorder: soldiers who were mentally scared by their battlefield experiences of seeing their comrades horribly killed or wounded during battle; and those who couldn't leave the "comfort zone" of their battlefield-military lifestyle to engage in mundane civilian work again.

To drown out their PTSD problems, many soldiers turned to "the bottle" for solace -- alcoholism shielded them from copping with reality -- the reality that many Northern civilians refrained from hiring ex-soldiers because of the wide-spread civilian attitude that ex-soldiers should not be hired because many newspaper articles detailed stories of soldiers as drunks (pp. 50-55).

Also, with the war's end, many defense-industries began laying off workers as their supply contracts ended: too many 25-year-old males looking for jobs, and wages were driven down (p. 56) -- a serious problem for ex-soldiers who had a family to support.
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Format: Hardcover
Most Civil War books end at Appomattox and then have an epilogue talking about the last surrender by General Kirby Smith in the West. Some will have follow-up biographies of what happened to the major players like Grant, Lee and other generals or politicians. But no one has written about what happened to the conscripts and volunteers after the shooting stopped.

Jordan has gone back and researched how Northern (Union) veterans were treated after the Civil War. Sadly, they weren’t treated very well, much like those who fought in the Revolution, War of 1812 and Mexican Wars. Jordan divides the discussion into sections about wounded/disabled, amputees, and the mentally affected; and the fight over bonuses and pensions.

There were multiple organizations formed by veterans after the CV but the largest of them all was the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR). The GAR was large enough to lobby in Washington on behalf of the Veterans, but complained constantly of being ignored. Though he doesn’t discuss the Grant Administration per se, he does discuss the difference between the Cleveland (where they were treated poorly) and Hayes (where they were treated like the heroes they were). Jordan makes the point that Cleveland paid someone to take his place while Hayes was a Lieutenant Colonel of Ohio Volunteers.

Like many returning soldiers from earlier wars, they were feted for a while and then people wanted to forget the war, heal the Union and move on. It got to the point where people would ignore the pleas of indigent veteran families (think of it as charity fatigue), saying they were asking too much for too long. Unlike today, charity was a private affair, people were expected to take care of themselves or go to the poor house.
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