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Scholars of the Civil War era have commonly assumed that veterans of the Union and Confederate armies effortlessly melted back into society and that they adjusted to the demands of peacetime with little or no difficulty. Yet the path these soldiers followed on the road to reintegration was far more tangled. New Men unravels the narrative of veteran reentry into civilian li Scholars of the Civil War era have commonly assumed that veterans of the Union and Confederate armies effortlessly melted back into society and that they adjusted to the demands of peacetime with little or no difficulty. Yet the path these soldiers followed on the road to reintegration was far more tangled. New Men unravels the narrative of veteran reentry into civilian life and exposes the growing gap between how former soldiers saw themselves and the representations of them created by late-nineteenth century American society. In the early years following the Civil War, the concept of the "veteran" functioned as a marker for what was assumed by soldiers and civilians alike to be a temporary social status that ended definitively with army demobilization and the successful attainment of civilian employment. But in later postwar years this term was reconceptualized as a new identity that is still influential today. It came to be understood that former soldiers had crossed a threshold through their experience in the war, and they would never be the same: They had become new men. Uncovering the tension between veterans and civilians in the postwar era adds a new dimension to our understanding of the legacy of the Civil War. Reconstruction involved more than simply the road to reunion and its attendant conflicts over race relations in the United States. It also pointed toward the frustrating search for a proper metaphor to explain what soldiers had endured. A provocative engagement with literary history and historiography, New Men challenges the notion of the Civil War as "unwritten" and alters our conception of the classics of Civil War literature. Organized chronologically and thematically, New Men coherently blends an analysis of a wide variety of fictional and nonfictional narratives. Writings are discussed in revelatory pairings that illustrate various aspects of veteran reintegration, with a chapter dedicated to literature describing the reintegration experiences of African Americans in the Union Army. New Men is at once essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the origins of our concept of the "veteran" and a book for our times. It is an invitation to build on the rich lessons of the Civil War veterans' experiences, to develop scholarship in the area of veterans studies, and to realize the dream of full social integration for soldiers returning home.


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Scholars of the Civil War era have commonly assumed that veterans of the Union and Confederate armies effortlessly melted back into society and that they adjusted to the demands of peacetime with little or no difficulty. Yet the path these soldiers followed on the road to reintegration was far more tangled. New Men unravels the narrative of veteran reentry into civilian li Scholars of the Civil War era have commonly assumed that veterans of the Union and Confederate armies effortlessly melted back into society and that they adjusted to the demands of peacetime with little or no difficulty. Yet the path these soldiers followed on the road to reintegration was far more tangled. New Men unravels the narrative of veteran reentry into civilian life and exposes the growing gap between how former soldiers saw themselves and the representations of them created by late-nineteenth century American society. In the early years following the Civil War, the concept of the "veteran" functioned as a marker for what was assumed by soldiers and civilians alike to be a temporary social status that ended definitively with army demobilization and the successful attainment of civilian employment. But in later postwar years this term was reconceptualized as a new identity that is still influential today. It came to be understood that former soldiers had crossed a threshold through their experience in the war, and they would never be the same: They had become new men. Uncovering the tension between veterans and civilians in the postwar era adds a new dimension to our understanding of the legacy of the Civil War. Reconstruction involved more than simply the road to reunion and its attendant conflicts over race relations in the United States. It also pointed toward the frustrating search for a proper metaphor to explain what soldiers had endured. A provocative engagement with literary history and historiography, New Men challenges the notion of the Civil War as "unwritten" and alters our conception of the classics of Civil War literature. Organized chronologically and thematically, New Men coherently blends an analysis of a wide variety of fictional and nonfictional narratives. Writings are discussed in revelatory pairings that illustrate various aspects of veteran reintegration, with a chapter dedicated to literature describing the reintegration experiences of African Americans in the Union Army. New Men is at once essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the origins of our concept of the "veteran" and a book for our times. It is an invitation to build on the rich lessons of the Civil War veterans' experiences, to develop scholarship in the area of veterans studies, and to realize the dream of full social integration for soldiers returning home.

21 review for New Men: Reconstructing the Image of the Veteran in Late-Nineteenth-Century American Literature and Culture

  1. 5 out of 5

    John Wood

    This book explores how the men who fought in the American Civil War were changed by the experience. Discussing personal experiences and literature (much of it by Civil War vets), the author explains how these men have become different than other people, forever changed by their wartime experiences. Whether the American Civil War is seen as a transitional conflict or the first "modern war", the former soldiers are seen as veterans, set apart from others by their service. While white soldiers were This book explores how the men who fought in the American Civil War were changed by the experience. Discussing personal experiences and literature (much of it by Civil War vets), the author explains how these men have become different than other people, forever changed by their wartime experiences. Whether the American Civil War is seen as a transitional conflict or the first "modern war", the former soldiers are seen as veterans, set apart from others by their service. While white soldiers were often lauded for this distinction, black former soldiers involvement was often downplayed to lessen the image of fierce warrior that seemed threatening to many whites. The effect on the lives of the former black slaves and how the Civil War affected their quest for freedom, equality and full citizenship was also explored. This book informs on how we now see our soldiers and how the idea of the veteran as a transformative term denoting courage and honor has evolved, after the Civil War. I received my copy from netgalley.com

  2. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Handley-Cousins

    I am often skeptical of literary criticism, particularly on historical topics, but this book had enough historiography and context to make a fairly good case for most of the arguments. I was utterly unconvinced by some of the arguments, such as the interpretation of Sherman's memoirs to suggest evidence of trauma. In general, the work on trauma felt flat to me because it seemed to be taking place entirely outside of the historical conversation about trauma and the Civil War. This isn't entirely I am often skeptical of literary criticism, particularly on historical topics, but this book had enough historiography and context to make a fairly good case for most of the arguments. I was utterly unconvinced by some of the arguments, such as the interpretation of Sherman's memoirs to suggest evidence of trauma. In general, the work on trauma felt flat to me because it seemed to be taking place entirely outside of the historical conversation about trauma and the Civil War. This isn't entirely Casey's fault - much of that conversation took place the year this book was published and after. However, other important works weren't consulted, such as Diane Miller Sommerville's article on suicide in the Confederacy. In any case, the result for me was a text that felt disconnected from the very active historical debate on trauma/PTSD. Other chapters were far stronger and much more convincing. I was particularly interested in the analysis of Stephen Crane's Red Badge of Courage. At first, I was pretty wary of Casey's suggestion that Crane's novel was a meditation on Crane's frustration with aging Civil War veterans and and expression of his desire for them to 'get out of the way' and make way for younger American men to take the national reins. However, as Casey presented more research and context for Crane's life and writing, and the subtle but critical differences between the different editions of the novel. It has significantly altered the way that I interpret the novel. Overall, a useful addition to the field of Civil War veteran studies.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Just another reader

    The American Civil War created lasting impact in every single soul that was involved, and not just those that steered or fought it, as this book goes on to show. The transformations in personal beliefs and outlooks, the trauma, and all aspects of the War are discussed at length. It was a great read.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Gardner

  5. 5 out of 5

    Dan McGill

  6. 4 out of 5

    finecat

  7. 4 out of 5

    Margaret

  8. 4 out of 5

    Erika

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kristine Florentz

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ben Hamelin

  11. 4 out of 5

    J.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Tim Williams

  13. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

  14. 4 out of 5

    Michael Roseman

  15. 4 out of 5

    Pierke Bosschieter

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mark Flory

  17. 5 out of 5

    Magillicutty

  18. 4 out of 5

    James Hill Welborn III

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jim Devries

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jae Kwon

  21. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Tebeau

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