Marching Home Union Veterans and Their Unending Civil War

Review :

I really enjoyed this book for multiple reasons.

First, he takes on a topic on which there hasn't been much scholarship. Most books on the Civil War end with Appomattox, the Lincoln assassination or the Grand Review, and that is where he starts. He tracks the experiences of hundreds of Union army veterans as they try to reintegrate into civilian life. He covers their various trials finding jobs, reconnecting with families and dealing with the physical and psychological scars of the war. Most narratives of the Civil War, and of war in general, is that the soldiers went home, were greeted as heroes by their families, got jobs and moved on with their lives, but Jordan clearly shows otherwise.

Second, the book is painstakingly researched. For a book that contains 200 pages of actual book, it has 150 pages of notes and bibliography. The variety and geographic scale of the sources is also impressive.

Third, this is a very timely work relating to modern discussions of soldiers dealing with PTSD, issues with the Veterans Administration, etc. It seems, sadly, that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Finally, he writes in a fast paced, but easily readable style. I found a lot of similarities between this book and Drew Gilpin Faust's "This Republic of Suffering". Faust's book is also very good, but she used like five quotes to prove every point where three would have worked just as well. Jordan uses three points. Enough to prove the point, but not beat it to death.

Two sight drawbacks to this book. First, African-Americans are largely absent from his research, which is unfortunate considering they made up 10% of Union forces. He has a few references, but they don't really do the subject justice. The other slight flaw is that he paints an extremely gloomy picture for the lives of returning soldiers, meaning is largely ignores the positive returns (of which there were many). So in that regard, Jordan's work is somewhat one sided, but I think that is OK given what he was trying to accomplish.

Overall, I though this book was very well done. It was a very quick and well-researched read.


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