After the Glory
The Struggles of Black Civil War Veterans
Donald R. Shaffer
Peter Seaborg Award
The heroics of black Union soldiers in the Civil War have been justly celebrated, but their postwar lives largely neglected. Donald Shaffer's illuminating study shines a bright light on this previously obscure part of African American history, revealing for the first time black veterans' valiant but often frustrating efforts to secure true autonomy and equality as civilians.
“Soundly researched and written, this is a significant scholarly achievement. Shaffer’s work is the first of its kind and has forged a new path in the historiography, suggesting avenues for further examination of the war’s impact upon a contingent of the population that helped achieve victory and solidify emancipation’s promise.”
—Civil War News
“Makes a strong contribution to the literature on African American soldiers in the era of the Civil War. The book is tightly organized, nicely written, and brimming with fascinating details about the men's experiences during and after the war. Shaffer has served the veterans and their enduring legacy well.”
—Journal of Military HistorySee all reviews...
“A worthwhile and lively reminder of who the veterans were, how they lived, and how their expectations and hopes were denied, along with those of black Americans in general. it constitutes an important final chapter to the story of black military service in the Civil War.”
“An insightful study that sheds light on these black victories and defeats that have hitherto been neglected in the historical scholarship. . . . Shaffer’s work illuminates an important social group of Civil War America.”
“A remarkable book written with intelligence and clarity about a long-neglected subject. . . . A major study.”
—Journal of American History
“Shaffer, like the movie Glory, has given black veterans a voice. This work’s strengths are in the black visions and voices, utilization of pension records, and the problems of historical memory.”
—Journal of American Ethnic History
“This work will be the definitive study of African American Civil War veterans for some time. . . . It is a reliable, sometimes moving, account of ordinary men caught in extraordinary historical circumstances. . . . The standard work on African American veterans.”
—Journal of Southern History
“A welcome addition to the growing literature on African Americans during the Civil War and Reconstruction. For too long, this kind of African-American history has been ‘lost, stolen, or strayed’ and ignored by most American history books.”
—Arkansas Historical Quarterly
“Informative. . . . As its title pun implies, the scholarly sequel to the movie Glory is more subdued than cinematic, but the story features many interesting character and some important surprises.”
—American Historical Review
“The first comprehensive study of African American Union veterans and their struggle for ‘dignified manhood.’ Easy to read and well argued. Highly recommended.”
“Shaffer resurrects these forgotten patriots and their trials with a mastery that illuminates the true nature of the Civil War and its legacy.”
—North & South
“An impressive collective biography of these neglected heroes. . . . Will help inform both academic and general readers of the extent to which late nineteenth-century America was a postwar society.”
—History: Reviews of New Books
“A solidly researched, brilliantly illustrated, history of the unfinished emancipation of blacks after 1865. . . . Americans interested in justice should read this fascinating book, because injustice was what the black heroes of the Civil War received from an ungrateful North and a hostile and racist South. . . . An essential book for those who want to understand American race relations past and present.”
“With the publication of Shaffer’s important and groundbreaking book, Civil War historians now have the opportunity to look beyond 1865 and ponder more deeply the nation that black Union soldiers helped create, with all of the promise its new birth of freedom held for these brave men, and all of the peril. . . . The publication of this book marks an important milestone in our understanding of the long-term impact of the Civil War on American history. . . . Shaffer’s conclusions are both heartening and sobering. . . . Shaffer is convincing when he argues that service in the Union Army offered many black veterans inner resources they could call upon when attempting to better themselves after their return to civilian life. . . . Historians have long-wondered about the impact of the pension system on black veterans, and Shaffer’s groundbreaking book offers some fascinating answers.”
“A valuable and long-awaited work, After the Glory provides a powerful social history of race and gender. It is a saga of triumph and tragedy, of limited and ambiguous victories, of black men struggling to find true freedom in postwar America.”
—John David Smith, editor of Black Soldiers in Blue: African American Troops in the Civil War Era
“A comprehensive and carefully researched portrait of black veterans in the postwar decades.”
—James McPherson, author of Battle Cry of Freedom
“A significant contribution to Civil War and African American history.”
—Louis S. Gerteis, author of Civil War St. LouisSee fewer reviews...
After the Glory shows how black veterans' experiences as soldiers provided them for the first time with a sense of manliness that shaped not only their own lives but also their contributions to the African American community. Shaffer makes clear, however, that their postwar pursuit of citizenship and a dignified manhood was never very easy for black veterans, their triumphs frequently neither complete nor lasting
Shaffer chronicles the postwar transition of black veterans from the Union army, as well as their subsequent life patterns, political involvement, family and marital life, experiences with social welfare, comradeship with other veterans, and memories of the war itself. He draws on such sources as Civil War pension records to fashion a collective biography-a social history of both ordinary and notable lives-resurrecting the words and memories of many black veterans to provide an intimate view of their lives and struggles.
Like other African Americans from many walks of life, black veterans fought fiercely against disenfranchisement and Jim Crow and were better equipped to do so than most other African Americans. They carried a sense of pride instilled by their military service that made them better prepared to confront racism and discrimination and more respected in their own communities. As Shaffer reveals, they also had nearly equal access to military pensions, financial resources available to few other blacks, and even found acceptance among white Union veterans in the Grand Army of the Republic fraternity.
After the Glory is not merely another tale of black struggles in a racist America; it is the story of how a select group of African Americans led a quest for manhood—and often found it within themselves when no one else would give it to them.