Greetings Cosmic Americans!
I came across a couple of tidbits in the Cosmic America archives this morning I thought worthy of sharing. The source: testimony form the war papers published in 1891 by the Grand Army of the Republic, Department of Ohio, Fred C. Jones Post, No. 401, Cincinnati. The papers are housed at Columbia University.
The few short paragraphs here are excellent representations of two very important themes in veterans' commemorative activities. One, the rapid thinning of their ranks as the years inexorably passed, and two, their unflinching commitment to Union.
Union, as historian Gary Gallagher has recently pointed out in his book The Union War, has somewhat faded from our understanding of why northern soldiers flocked to the colors. Why, we might ask, would so many risk their lives for something so abstract? Clearly these soldiers did not dismiss Union as an abstraction, but rather stood by the idea as a tangible one - and one worthy of defending.
I will let them speak for themselves...on aging and Union:
The life of the Grand Army is necessarily a brief one. The survivors of the great war of the rebellion are past the meridian of life, and the shadows of the coming night are rapidly rising above them. There is hardly a man among us whose hair is unsilvered with age. There are no means of perpetuating our Order. We draw recruits from a single source, and that a circumscribed one whose limits are narrowing year by year. In a few years the last veteran of the great army will have passed away.
Our nation survived the shock of war largely because of its peculiar structure, which made every loyal man feel that he was part of the Government; that under our system of decentralized power a part of it is lodged in his person. He felt that he was challenged when the Federal Government was defied, and that he was robbed when the Federal forts and arsenals were taken. The quarrel thus became his personal concern, and the people of the North rose as one man to beat back the bold assault upon a system of government which every man of them was inspired to defend by the same feeling which would move him to defend his own hearthstone.
I discuss both of these subjects at length in my upcoming book on Civil War veterans. I will let you know as the publication date approaches.