I was perusing the program for the upcoming AHA in New York City and noticed a couple of interesting Civil War panels. They tend to reflect the recent turn toward exploring the emotional lives of soldiers and the challenges they faced throughout the postwar period – what some people are calling “dark history.”
All of this is worth exploring and I wish I could be there in person, but I am left wondering whether this embrace of the war as an overwhelmingly debilitating experience on all levels leaves room for soldiers who embraced it in ways that directly counter this framework. What do we do with soldiers on both sides who came out of the war intact or even thrived as a result of it? Do we even have an analytical framework that takes such an experience seriously or do we fear risking glamourizing war?