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Coming home Dr. James Marten explores the postwar lives of Civil War veterans

By Jessie Bazan

F

rom the decisive battle at Gettysburg to the bloody battle of Antietam, America’s Civil War was filled with some of the most unforgettable clashes in our country’s history. Northern and Southern soldiers alike entered each new conflict with a strong sense of pride and commitment to the present struggle. But what happened to these men after the final gunshots? Dr. James Marten, Marquette professor and chair of the Department of History, explores the postwar lives of these veterans in his new book, Sing Not War: The Lives of Union & Confederate Veterans in Gilded Age America. As a child growing up in South Dakota, backyard games of “Army” and

the other ones we don’t know much

Kurt Russell action movies sparked

about.” So Marten delved deeper into

Marten’s fascination with the Civil War

the veterans’ lives.

at a young age. The allure of America’s

Marten researched the book off and

deadliest internal struggle followed

on over 16 years. For firsthand accounts

Marten into adulthood and to Marquette,

and stories from veterans, he searched

where he has spent his time researching,

out 19th-century veterans’ newspapers

teaching and writing about everything

like the American Tribune and the

their families and former communities.

from the war’s effect on children to

Confederate Veteran. He found a particu-

While only a small percentage of return-

displaced soldiers on the edges of

larly unusual, if small, set of sources at

ing soldiers ended up in homes, their

society. In his latest book, Sing Not War,

the Veterans Affairs hospital library

stories of rejection and struggle reflected

Marten examines the struggles Civil War

in Milwaukee.

those of the larger veteran population.

soldiers faced while reintegrating into

“For some reason, left behind some-

Northern and Southern soldiers alike

society after combat — a topic few

where was a big ledger with disciplinary

faced tremendous obstacles as they tried

historians previously tackled.

actions against the men, health records

to acclimate to postwar life.

“If they do fine, they’re not very interesting to historians,” says Marten,

6

Excellence. “We know about them. It’s

and a few other little things,” says Marten. Inside these records, Marten found

“You’re worn out. Even if you didn’t get wounded or didn’t miss a day, you’re

who received Marquette’s 2010 Lawrence

stories of marginalized veterans stuck in

just not well quite often,” Marten says

G. Haggerty Faculty Award for Research

rambunctious group homes, away from

of the men who spent their 20s at war

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