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According to the conventional view, the freedoms and interests of African American veterans were not ...
According to the conventional view, the freedoms and interests of African American veterans were not defended by white Union veterans after the war, despite the shared tradition of sacrifice among both black and white soldiers. In The Won Cause, however, Gannon challenges this scholarship, arguing that although black veterans still suffered under the contemporary racial mores, the GAR honored its black members in many instances and ascribed them a greater equality than previous studies have shown. Using evidence of integrated posts and veterans' thoughts on their comradeship and the cause, Gannon reveals that white veterans embraced black veterans because their membership in the GAR demonstrated that their wartime suffering created a transcendent bond--comradeship--that overcame even the most pernicious social barrier--race-based separation. By upholding a more inclusive memory of a war fought for liberty as well as union, the GAR's "Won Cause" challenged the Lost Cause version of Civil War memory.
"Barbara Gannon has written a fine piece of scholarship with highly impressive, groundbreaking research. This important study will be a major contribution to the literature on the Civil War."—Donald R. Shaffer, author of After the Glory: The Struggles of Black Civil War Veterans
Posted June 10, 2011
We accept the idea that segregation and discrimination is the norm between the Civil War and the Civil Rights Era. Most history is full of examples supporting this idea. We often cite the Grand Army of the Republic as an example of anti-Black and anti-Catholic sentiment. This is the era of Jim Crow, the Klan, lynching and race riots. What should we make of a book that says the GAR was an integrated organization?
During the Civil War, the North recruited thousands of Black men from 1862 to 1865. These men were the United States Colored Troops, USCT, officered by Whites they fought in all theaters. These men lived in a segregated military that reflected society. Their service resulted in the retention of Black regiments in the regular army that existed until after World War II. This book is not a history of the USCT's service in the Civil War or until they were abolished. This book is a history of USCT veterans that joined the Grand Army of the Republic and their experiences.
The GAR never officially separated in Black and White posts. The GAR never refused to allow Blacks to attend meetings, conventions, campfires or reunions. They were unique in this respect and from time to time refused to separate on race. In this book, the author advances the idea that the GAR overcame "contemporary racial mores'. It is a difficult position to take and a challenge to defend. The author presents a picture of an organization with a mixed record. There are White posts, Black posts and mixed posts. Posts enjoy presentations from veterans with little regard for race. Members address conventions from the floor without regard for race. However, officers above the post level are white. Black veterans, while nominated seldom are elected.
This well researched book has excellent notes and is easy to read. This is an interesting book with good information, presenting a different view of the GAR. While not convinced the author is correct, I cannot completely dismiss her position.