Civil War Vets: Profoundly Affected Post-War Society

By Kolb, Richard K.; Moran, Joe | VFW Magazine, March 2001 | Go to article overview

Civil War Vets: Profoundly Affected Post-War Society


Kolb, Richard K., Moran, Joe, VFW Magazine


The 3,295,482 Americans who wore a blue or gray uniform during the Civil War (1861-65) impacted America like no other generation of war veterans befOre. Their sheer numbers assured that they would play a decisive role in the nation's development.

RUTHERFORD B. HAYES (1822-1893) b. Delaware, Ohio 19th President of the U.S.

As President (1877-81), Rutherford Hayes achieved civil service reform, a sound fiscal policy, national reconciliation between North and South and fought for needy veterans (signing the Arrears of Pension Act of 1879). He was a three-term congressman and Ohio governor before, helping to develop the Library of Congress and establish the University of Ohio.

A major in the 23rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment, he fought at Giles Court House, South Mountain, Winchester, wounded four times and recognized for his bravery.

After his presidency, Hayes was active in promoting public education and prison reform. His reputation for being conscientious, honest and decent was proven and well deserved.

OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES, JR. (1841-1935) b. Boston, Mass.

Supreme Court Justice

A towering figure in the court's history, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. has been called "the most illustrious figure in the history of American law ," His book, The Common Law ( 1881 ), is regarded as the greatest work of U.S. legal scholarship. lie is considered one of the founders of sociological jurisprudence. In nearly 30 years on the Supreme Court, he rendered 873 opinions.

Holmes was an officer in the 20th Mass. Vol. In(. Regt. and later the 6th Corps. Seriously wounded three times, he saw action at Ball's Bluff, Seven Pines, Glendale, Malvern Hill, Antietam, Fredericksburg (second), Wilderness and Cold Harbor.

During some 20 years on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, he also wrote 1,400 opinions. Overall, he was a strong supporter of the doctrine of "judicial restraint."

JOHN W. POWELL

(1834-1902) b. New York City Scientist and Explorer

A renowned natural scientist, John Wesley Powell became a national hero for exploring the Green River and the Colorado River's Grand Canyon. He directed the Smithsonian's Bureau of American Ethnology and the U.S. Geological Survey. His work opened up the last uncharted portion of the West.

Captain of Battery F, 2nd Illinois Light Artillery, he lost an arm at Shiloh. Plagued by pain, he still served until the war ended-at Vicksburg, Champion Hill, Black River Bridge, Meridian, Nashville, Franklin and Atlanta. By war's end, he was chief of artillery for the 17th Army Corps.

Powell was the first to create a definitive method of classifying American Indian languages. Also active in anthropological, biological and geological societies, he helped found the National Geographic Society. Moreover, Powell was the "father" of land reclamation. He was a president of the prestigious American Association for the Advancement of Science.

AMBROSE G. BIERCE

(1842-1914) b. Chester, Ohio Writer

Ambrose Bierce's writings on war are considered by some critics to be the best on the subject. For nearly 40 years, he was one of America's leading journalists. lie wrote a nationally syndicated column for the San Francisco Examiner and authored 93 classic short stories ( 18 on the war).

As an officer in the 9th Indiana Vol. Inf. Regt., he participated in 23 battles, including Shiloh, Corinth, Stone's River, Chickamauga, Chattanooga, Nashville and Franklin. Though seriously wounded at Kennesaw Mountain, he wasn't invalid out of the Army until January 1865.

His best known literary work was The Devil's Dictionary, 1906-a collection of witty and satirical definitions.

Bierce's most important book was Tales of Soldiers and Civilians (1891). He subscribed to the adage: "To live is to be a soldier:' His biographer wrote, "War was the making of Bierce as a man and a writer.

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