“This Will Be Our History and Our Glory”

I am presenting a paper about the Grand Army of the Republic, Department of Indiana, and their memories of the Civil War at the 34th Annual Meeting of the Indiana Association of Historians on Saturday, March 8. The paper is titled “‘This Will Be Our History and Our Glory:’ Civil War Memories and the Grand Army of the Republic, Department of Indiana.” I will share some of my arguments from the paper in future blog posts. Below is my paper abstract:

In the only scholarly study of the Grand Army of the Republic, Department of Indiana, historian James H. Madison* declared in 2003 that Hoosier Civil War veterans remembered the conflict in a way that “created silences that denied the central essence of the war.” These veterans, argues Madison, reflected the racial attitudes of late nineteenth century Indiana, where racism, segregation, and violence against African Americans occurred on an all too frequent basis. As products of this racist society, the collective memories of Indiana GAR veterans by the fiftieth anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg in 1913 allegedly reflected an active “forgetting” of the role of slavery, race, and emancipation in the nation’s deadliest war. More recent scholarship from Barbara A. Gannon and Caroline E. Janney challenges the notion of GAR veterans “forgetting” about these divisive issues, but both of these studies look at the Grand Army of the Republic on a national scale, raising questions about the applicability of these scholars’ theories to the local context of Indiana.

How did Indiana GAR members remember the Civil War? This study analyzes speeches, newspaper articles from the Indianapolis veteran-published American Tribune, and actions of Indiana’s Civil War veterans from 1880-1918 to argue that the members of the Indiana GAR remembered their role in destroying slavery, often intertwining the goals of Union and emancipation together in their interpretations of the conflict. Nevertheless, Hoosier veterans remained largely silent about the imposition of Jim Crow laws and legalized segregation throughout the country. This paper is part of a larger Master’s thesis and is a compilation of original research and scholarly synthesis.

*James H. Madison, “Civil War Memories and ‘Pardnership Forgittin’,” 1865-1913, Indiana Magazine of History 99, no. 3 (September 2003): 198-230.