Sarah E. Handley-Cousins
- University at Buffalo, State University of New York
This book project explores the interconnections between criminality, trauma, and veteranhood in post Civil War America. Across the newly reconciled United States, newspapers breathlessly reported an uptick in violent crime, a surge that many associated with the demobilization of the armies. As time went on, reports of veteran-criminals in newspapers mingled with stories of veterans dying by suicide, being dragged off to asylums, and packing prisons. Americans came to believe that the conflict had unleashed something dark and dangerous. Effectively waging war meant engaging passions that once unleashed could not be controlled. Yet, war was also understood as a crucible for manhood, honing manful citizens. How could war create both violent criminals and ideal citizens? These tensions reveal the complex and sometimes contradictory ways that Americans reckoned with the individual and collective trauma of the Civil War.