A few updates while I have Internet access!
While coming well into the post-war era, this documentary (based on the book
by Douglas Blackman) shows how poor people – mainly blacks – in the South were reenslaved by means of sneaky laws and sneakier lawmakers. Heartbreaking, but an important piece of history.
Watch The Film | Slavery by Another Name | PBS.
A new book deals with a subject I’ve been musing on lately: The effects of the war on the social life of postbellum America. Millions of men coming home – some with severe physical and emotional scars – to a world that was profoundly changed. This one sounds like a good read.
Jordan’s handling of civilian behavior toward Union veterans amounts to an unsparing indictment. Widespread callousness consigned former soldiers to “a living ‘republic of suffering.’ . . . Suspended between the dead and the living, the rest of their days were disturbed by memories of the war.” He allocates considerable attention to amputees and former prisoners of war. “Legions of men missing arms and legs,” he contends, posed a special problem for civilians because “throbbing stumps weeping a foul brew of pus and blood were hardly an advertisement for the kind of glorious, sanitized war the public wanted to remember.” Ex-prisoners suffered “enduring psychological injuries” and sought help from comrades who had shared their wartime nightmare. But “while ex-prisoner-of-war associations sustained prison survivors, they had scarcely moved the hearts and minds of the northern public. If anything, ex-prisoner meetings contributed to even greater public suspicion and scorn.” A reluctant nation did create a pension system (though many Americans came to view it “as a problem — not a paradigm”), and national and state soldiers’ homes assisted some of the poorest and least functional veterans.
Former soldiers offered one another empathy and help. They created the Grand Army of the Republic , the largest veterans’ organization and an increasingly powerful lobbying group, which Jordan describes as “one of the most significant social-welfare organizations of the nineteenth century.” They also wrote memoirs and unit histories, gathered at reunions, and erected monuments on battlefields and elsewhere — all to keep alive the memory of their sacrifice.
via Book review: Marching Home, by Brian Matthew Jordan – The Washington Post.
I’ve always been fascinated by the westward expansion after the war, though my focus was always on the Missouri guerrillas and how they laid the shaky foundations of the Wild West. The more sedate yet lasting effects regular immigrants caused hadn’t much occurred to me.
Among those profiled were James, William and Charles Conrad from the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. James and wife, Maria, raised 13 children on Wapping Plantation, home to 11 slaves. James Conrad and sons William, 16, and Charles, 14, served the militia, in the boys’ case, with guerrillas.
They returned from the war to find their slaves freed and their plantation in ruins, unable to support the large family. William and Charles eventually moved to Fort Benton with a single silver dollar, according to family lore. They built a business empire on the frontier.
“Confederate veterans were in on discovery of most of the largest strikes,” Robison wrote. “Songs ‘Dixie’ and ‘Bonnie Blue Flag’ were on the ‘hit parade’ in the hurdy-gurdy dance halls of Virginia City, and the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln was cheered and celebrated on the streets. When ex-Confederate soldiers formed Gallatin Masonic Lodge No. 6 in October 1866, they refused admission to African-Americans, which was not surprising, but they also refused to admit whites who had fought for or supported the Union.”
via ‘Dixie’s loss is Montana’s gain’.