Book Review: The War Went On: Reconsidering the Lives of Civil War Veterans


by Brian Matthew Jordan and Evan C. Rothera, editors

Baton Rouge: LSU Press, 2020. Pp. xiv, 240. Table, notes, index. $55.00. ISBN: 0807171980

The Postwar Lives of Civil War Veterans

Compared with other aspects of the Civil War, the experience of the veteran was surprisingly overlooked until relatively recently. Of late, however, scholars have has begun examining the story of the veterans – Blue or Gray, black or white – as part of the history of the Civil War and their effects on shaping American society. This volume, edited by professors Jordan (Sam Houston State) and Rothera (Arkansas-Fort Smith), consists of an introduction and essays by fifteen scholars on various aspects of the veteran experience and postwar lives. The papers fall into three broad categories.

Essays included under “Rejecting Hibernation” address, and reject, the long held idea that for over a decade after the war the veterans largely stayed out of public life because of wartime disillusionment, covering such topics as veterans in political life during the immediate postwar period, the establishment of veterans’ colonies in the west, veterans who supported the Juaristas in Mexico, and disabled veterans.

In “Narrating the Past”, we get papers that look at how veterans reflected on, edited, and commemorated wartime service, such as men recalling their time as prisoners-of-war, Union veterans rebutting “Lost Cause” narratives, battles in veterans’ publications over who did what in the war, or promoting both Unionism and white supremacy.

The final section, “The Multivocality of Civil War Veteranhood”, addresses unusual aspects of veterans’ post war experiences, rom the with papers on such topics as changing trends in honoring black veterans, the difficulties Unionist Arkansas veterans had in securing pensions, and the problem of identifying cases of PTSD among Civil War vets, and even cases in which veterans in Blue somehow came to be commemorated as veterans in Gray or vice versa.

The War Went On, a volume in the LSU series “Conflicting Worlds: New Dimensions of the American Civil War”, offers valuable insights into the veteran experience in post-Civil War America, and their role in shaping the history of the war, and will prove a good read for anyone seriously interested in veterans’ studies or the Civil War.



Note: The War Went On is also available in several e-editions.


StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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