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Haunted by War: New Book Focuses on Traumatized Civil War Veterans

Assistant Professor of History
February 15, 2016

Brian Jordan (PhD 2013, History), assistant professor of history at Sam Houston State University in Texas, has won the 2016 Governor John Andrew Award for Civil War History from the Seven & Eight Park Street Foundation of the Union Club of Boston, in recognition of his first book, Marching Home: Union Veterans and Their Unending Civil War (Liveright/ W.W. Norton, 2015).

The book is based on his dissertation, “Embattled Memories: Union Veterans and Their Unending Civil War,” which won both the George W. Egleston Prize (best U.S. history dissertation) and the university-wide John Addison Porter Prize in 2014.  His adviser was David Blight, and his committee included John Demos and Bruno Cabanes. “Yale made this book possible,” he says.

Marching Home is focused on the challenges Union veterans faced when the war ended. Civilian society was ready to move on, but veterans of the conflict remained haunted by the atrocities they had experienced and the wounds they had suffered. His research involved extensive use of primary materials, including veterans’ newspapers, historical societies, and university archives in all the northern states.

Some of the resources I found had really never been touched before,” he says. They were “literally in boxes in an attic — firsthand accounts from soldiers, doctors, psychologists, and the like that had never been processed or examined.”

A great deal of material in group homes for soldiers had been destroyed by the federal government in the 1940s or 50s, he says, because “it was decided that those records were too depressing of a mark on history to preserve.”

Jordan’s book has been reviewed and praised by The Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other publications. Walter Russell Mead, of Foreign Affairs, wrote: “Readers of this clearly written and exhaustively researched book will come away with a deeper appreciation of the sacrifices soldiers make; many living veterans will thank Jordan for his attention to an often neglected but important aspect of U.S. military history.” 

Jordan has published several articles and spoken widely on the Civil War, including at the National Archives in Washington, DC, the Cosmos Club, and the National Civil War Museum. In 2014 and 2015, he led five-day seminars and battlefield tours for Yale Educational Travel. Later this semester, he will lead a five-day seminar and tour of Gettysburg and Antietam.  He taught inaugural courses at the Yale Alumni College in Washington, D.C. in 2014 and 2015.

Born and brought up in Ohio, Jordan was valedictorian of his graduating class at Gettysburg College in 2009.