Welcome to Grand Army Blog, an online forum devoted to exploring the lives of Union veterans, as well as their efforts to grapple with the meaning of the Civil War and the enormous costs it exacted.  This blog will feature highlights from my ongoing research project on blue-coated ex-soldiers, tentatively titled When Billy Came Marching Home: Union Veterans and Their Unending Civil War.   This project has taken me on an extraordinary research journey to over forty archives in twenty-five states.  In future posts, I will discuss the scope and arguments of the project, which I am completing as a Ph.D. dissertation under the direction of historian David Blight at Yale University.

Inspired by friend and Civil War blogger-extraordinaire Kevin Levin, this site is intended to serve as a digital extension of When Billy Came Marching Home.  First, I want to create an online resource for exploring the neglected and troubled lives of Union veterans.  Second, I want to invite fellow students of the Civil War to share their own knowledge of the subject.  What I envision is a place to gather and analyze exciting new information about the legions of men who, for decades after Appomattox, stared vacantly into space, bandaged gunshot wounds yet weeping pus, continued to hear Minie balls tearing through limbs, and failed to exorcise from the deep recesses of their minds what they saw at Shiloh.

Especially during these sesquicentennial years, as a nation once again faced with returning warriors disabled in body and mind, I invite Civil War students of all stripes to contribute to our growing body of knowledge about veteran Billy Yank.   We need to understand more fully this dark corner of our Civil War past, and I hope this blog will facilitate fruitful discussions — not only about the consequences of our fratricidal conflict, but about what it means to return from war.

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10 thoughts on “Welcome

  1. Great posts so far. Look forward to reading more.

  2. Keith Harris says:

    Congratulations on your new blog, Brian – I look forward to following along.

  3. Greg Taylor says:

    My great-great grandfather, Adj. William Beynon Phillips falls into the catagory of a Union Civil War veteran who lived a neglected, troubled life. A gifted, intelligent young Welsh immigrant he enlisted at the age of 21. At 23 he was promoted from Pvt. to Adjutant of the 2nd. PA Provisional Heavy Artillery. His unit was the first to enter the Crater after the mine explosion at Petersburg and he was one of six officers of the regiment to be captured as a prisoner of war. After 8 months of captivity he was released and he returned to his home where he married and started a family. Thereafter, something went horribly wrong and eventually he ended up a hopeless alcoholic living in a “flop house” in San Francisco, where he died in 1876 in the San Francisco “City Prison” of a “brain hemorrhage”. More than the horrors of the Crater and his subsequent imprisonment I am haunted by the tortured life my ancestor lived from the end of the Civil War until his violent death eleven years later.

    Needless to say I will be following your new blog with great interest and would be happy to provide you with more information about my ancestor as it is relevant to the topic of your blog.

    Greg Taylor

    • Greg: This is an amazing story, and I thank you for writing it up. Please do share more information about your ancestor. Do you have any personal effects, letters, or diaries? We need to understand his and others’ heartrending experiences to even come close to understanding the depth and breadth of the Civil War’s horrors.

  4. Tom Thompson says:

    Hi Brian,
    I consider myself more of a lurker on these sites than a contributor. Your subject matter interests me. When I see photos and movies of those old Union Veterans and their CSA counterparts, it makes me wish that the photos had never been made. The old vets seem to be caricatures of themselves. I’m always wondering if these pictures represent some “real change” or if it simply represents an old geezer who has lost control of his capacity to remember what has been endured.

    Good luck to you.

  5. Greg Taylor says:

    Brian: You can access the Civil War letters on my blog at http://www.letters1862-1864.blogspot.com or on the link to my name. In addition I have two letters he wrote from San Francisco in 1873 and 1874 to his wife in Scranton, PA. The letters are haunting as he writes in gut-wrentching detail about his struggle with the bottle and his intense homesickness. I would be happy to send you the transcripts of these letters. I have been looking for a way to make them available to the public at large. Perhaps your new blog would be at good way to do it as it fits with the theme. I will be out of town until Friday, but can sent them to you when I return.

    • Greg: By all means, please send them along!! I appreciate your willingness to share this corner of your history. I think Grand Army Blog would be a fitting place to make the letters public. I’d also like to use them in my larger project if you are okay with that. I will send you a private message shortly.

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