Monday, March 21, 2011

The Next Project - Civil War Veterans and Westward Expansion

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

After careful consideration I have decided on the next major project. There were many to choose from, including an analysis of the public reaction to the film The Birth of a Nation, and that one is still on deck.

But I have been thinking about Civil War veterans in the West since my early days in graduate school - when I was concentrating on vets in the East.

So on we go. Those of you who read this blog regularly know that I speak of veterans, national reconciliation, and celebrations of section embedded in their national commitment. In short - northern and southern veterans embraced reunion on respective terms. Any idea that the issues of war were swept under the rug because of some shared racism are simply nonsense (confused? See this post).

My principal question: what happens when we situate these veterans (or perhaps anybody who lived through the war) within a new nationalist context - one that unfolded in the West?

Westward expansion really picked up steam in the latter third of the nineteenth century - former soldiers and their families made their way into this "pristine" part of the country in extraordinarily large numbers. When they made it - they did what you might expect. The talked about their experiences, set up soldiers' homes, built monuments and national cemeteries. I wonder how (or even if) the fact that they were out West made a difference.

For many, the great expanse that was the West of the late-nineteenth century defines America of that age and indeed informs our nationalist culture today. Expressions of nationalism took on a whole new look, feel, and sensibility. I am after the veterans experiential level as the country moved from a North/South to an East/West orientation. What were veterans' contributions to this shift?




  1. This is very exciting! I am working on a conference about the Civil War Era and the American West for the Clements Center at SMU in 2013, so we should definitely stay in touch about this. And if you find veterans who had lived in Canada before the war, especially African Americans, I would love to hear about it for my own second project underway...

  2. You got it Adam - I will keep in touch for sure and let you know if anything turns up.