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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 Kurt Russell action movies sparked Marten’s fascination with the Civil War at a young age. The allure of America’s deadliest internal struggle followed Marten into adulthood and to Marquette, where he has spent his time researching, teaching and writing about everything from the war’s effect on children to displaced soldiers on the edges of society. In his latest book, Sing Not War, Marten examines the struggles Civil War soldiers faced while reintegrating into society after combat — a topic few historians previously tackled. “If they do fine, they’re not very interesting to historians,” says Marten, who received Marquette’s 2010 Lawrence G. Haggerty Faculty Award for Research Excellence. “We know about them. It’s the other ones we don’t know much about.” So Marten delved deeper into the veterans’ lives. Marten researched the book off and on over 16 years. For firsthand accounts and stories from veterans, he searched out 19th-century veterans’ newspapers like the American Tribune and the Confederate Veteran. He found a particularly unusual, if small, set of sources at the Veterans Affairs hospital library in Milwaukee. “For some reason, left behind somewhere was a big ledger with disciplinary actions against the men, health records and a few other little things,” says Marten. Inside these records, Marten found stories of marginalized veterans stuck in rambunctious group homes, away from their families and former communities. While only a small percentage of returning soldiers ended up in homes, their stories of rejection and struggle reflected those of the larger veteran population. Northern and Southern soldiers alike faced tremendous obstacles as they tried to acclimate to postwar life. “You’re worn out. Even if you didn’t get wounded or didn’t miss a day, you’re just not well quite often,” Marten says of the men who spent their 20s at war 6 Discover