Friday, February 10, 2012

From the Archives: Ohio Civil War Veterans on Aging and Union

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.




  1. I will love these guys till the day I die. I hope to see them the day after that.

  2. Are you looking at any ethnically distinct veterans' groups or lodges?

  3. Generally I will look at any veterans' group, regardless of ethnicity. I would certainly be interested in groups who align along ethic lines.

  4. I loved "The Union War." Recently I embarked on reading Benjamin F. Butler's "Autobiography and Personal Reminiscences" (Boston, 1892), and was struck by the dedication: "To the Good and Brave Soldiers of the Grand Army of the Republic. This book is dedicated by their comrade, a slight token of appreciation of the patriotic devotion to loyalty and gallant heroism with which they endured the hardships and fought the battles of their country during the War of the Rebellion, to preserve its existence and perpetuity as a nation of freemen, the proudest exemplar of a people solely governed by themselves, able to sustain that government as more powerful than any nation of the earth. Upon our efforts and their success depended the future of free institutions as a governmental power, giving the boon of liberty to all the peoples. Other republics have flourished for a season, been split in fragments, or merged in despotisms, and failure would have closed forever the experiment of a government by the people for the people."

  5. Thanks for the comment, Mike. Yes indeed - Butler's Book, as he also called it, really spelled things out from a Union perspective. He doesn't pull any punches concerning the slavery issue either. Butler clearly emphasizes slavery as the cause of southern secession and the reason for Confederates' fight to secure independence. .

  6. Me too, Barb - I imagine we will have a lot to talk about. I will hope they liked my work!

  7. Right you are on "Butler's Book" and slavery, Keith. Page 301 consists soley of an engraving depicting a slave auction, with the stark caption "The Cause of the War." This from a man who, by his own admission, voted 57 times to make Jefferson Davis president of the U.S. at the 1860 Democratic convention in Charleston (as he explains it, "with intent to preserve the Union").

  8. Thanks for the information. For information on veterans, go through the site