Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Promising New Civil War Blog

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

It may seem somewhat premature to favorably review a blog in its earliest incarnations. But I have a sneaking suspicion that the content will be up to Cosmic America standards.

The blog's title, in all its straight-forward simplicity, is Grand Army Blog: The Veteran In A [Digital] Field. It is authored by Yale Ph.D. candidate Brian Matthew Jordan, who recently published Unholy Sabbath: The Battle of South Mountain in History and Memory, September 14, 1862.

What I gather from Brian's mission statement and first handful of posts, is an innovative addition to the ever-growing collection of Civil War memory studies. His focus is on Union veterans - but he endeavors to reorient Civil War remembrance along a veteran-civilian axis. This blog promises to be reflections on Brian's research and writing of his study, "When Billy Came Marching Home: Union Veterans and Their Unending Civil War."

On veterans, civilians, and Civil War memory, Brian states: The categories fashioned by the historian David Blight to sort competing memories of our fratricidal war – what he called the “emancipationist,” “reconciliationist,” and “white supremacist” visions – were useful in explaining how the national narrative of the Civil War was segregated, but stopped well short of explaining how that same story was, from almost the very beginning, sanitized. The sanitization of the Civil War narrative, much like its segregation, has a troubling history.

While I disagree with Blight's thesis (not Brian's assessment of it), and I find categories of all kinds profoundly problematic, I am nevertheless intrigued by the undertaking of a new categorization of Union veterans. Sanitization of the Civil War narrative would necessarily exclude a number of the maimed veterans who lived to see the end of the war. I am interested to see how he approaches said category - and his veteran-civilian axis.

My questions are numerous - particularity concerning the themes of fluidity/rigidity as veterans once again entered civilian life. Were they indeed cordoned off and kept away from the general public? Those who "shall have borne the battle" as Lincoln said, were certainly discussed at length at monument dedications and other veteran events. Were there intersections in which the maimed and disfigured were accepted in Brian's conception of a sanitized narrative?

I look forward to Brian's work - I am sure I will have plenty to discuss.



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