After the Glory: The Struggles of Black Civil War Veterans (Book Review)

Reviewed by Barbara Gannon
By Donald R. Shaffer
University Press of Kansas

Donald R. Shaffer’s After the Glory reveals the previously untold story of African-American veterans, examining their lives in the context of the postwar struggle for civil rights. Shaffer concludes that African-American veterans "enjoyed certain advantages compared with nonveterans in confronting the resurgence of racism and discrimination after the end of Reconstruction."

Economically, black former soldiers were more prosperous than other African Americans, partly due to government pensions granted to veterans regardless of their race. Politically, black veterans used their status to demand civil rights for themselves and their community. Socially, these men enjoyed the fellowship of their white comrades in the Grand Army of the Republic, the Union Army’s largest veterans group. Despite their success, Shaffer argues that "at best, black veterans achieved a partial victory, preserving some but not all of the manhood they had won."

While After the Glory is an impressively researched and well-written examination of an important subject, Shaffer’s assessment of black veterans’ success in terms of their manhood may make it less accessible to readers outside the historical profession. He examines veterans’ postwar lives through an analytical framework of gender issues, an academic approach that probes the different ways societies define manhood and womanhood. Some lay readers may feel that this detracts from the inherently powerful story of the postwar lives of African-American veterans.

Overall, Shaffer’s book represents an important contribution to the study of the Civil War era. The story of African-American soldiers did not end when their service expired. Many lived to enjoy the freedom they struggled for, even if they never achieved full equality in the nation they fought so hard to save.

2 Responses

  1. VemiVebyfeefe

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  2. Tony T & Rebecca Goldstone

    AMERICAN REMINISCENCES OF THE CARIBBEAN: 1937-1948

    Dear Editorial team

    We welcome your advice/assistance with regards inviting American contributions to our latest research.

    We are currently seeking American contributions to add to reminiscences of the Caribbean 1937-1948. The initial objectives for the material we are gathering are a book and online resource for schools and colleges. [NB. we have researched archive sources to provide us with a strong understanding of this history.

    We welcome any advice or assistance in helping us to contact US veterans who served in the Caribbean, such as the ‘Dixie Division’ and the African American 99th anti-aircraft Artillery.

    Contributions to date have come from all perspectives – servicemen, wartime civilians (Aruba, Barbados, Curaçao, Jamaica, St. Lucia, Trinidad) , U-Boat Officers, merchant sailors….
    Our search for reminiscences is all about providing Educators and Learners with as broad and diverse a perspective as possible: We want to gain an impression of the war at sea, we are also gathering memories of the West Indies as bases of operations; what impressions their civilian populations made; how the islands provided for torpedoed merchant seamen; memories of shore-leave…

    We look forward to hearing your thoughts.

    Best wishes

    Tony T
    Rebecca Goldstone

    Sweet Patootee Ltd
    28c Loraine Road
    London N7 6EZ
    UK
    T/F: 01144 207 686 5101
    W: http://www.sweetpatootee.co.uk

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