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Abstract

Following the bloody years of the Civil War, veteran organizations became a breeding ground for nationalism making and memory shaping. Historians, like Caroline Janney and David Blight, have debated what these memories meant for northern veterans. Did members of the Grand Army of the Republic [G.A.R.], the Union veterans association, reconcile with the South over a shared whiteness, as Blight suggests? Or were the memories of Northerners less reconciliatory, as Janney argues? Using Iowa G.A.R. reunions as a case study, this article demonstrates that Union veterans were shaping a pro-Union nationalism distinct from the Lost Cause. From songs praising the moral rightness of the Union to speeches calling Confederates traitors and unpatriotic, Union veterans in Iowa created shared memories of their experiences. These shared memories formed the basis for a nationalism which remained distinctly pro-Union and anti-Confederate and which would be perpetuated well into the twentieth century by Iowa veterans even as a younger generation pushed for reconciliation.

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