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.