Shepherd Snyder Published

Civil War Talk Draws Parallels With Modern Veterans

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Psychiatrist and historian Stephen Goldman will be giving a talk about the Civil War Reconstruction era Tuesday at Shepherd University.

The talk, titled “Warriors in Peace: White and Black Union Veterans and the Fight for Equality in Post-Civil War America,” discusses how veterans used their social status to fight for issues like racial equality. Goldman is working on a book series about the topic. In his daily practice, he treats modern day veterans and active-duty personnel.

“The more research I did, it was just remarkable to find out how active they were politically, how African American veterans got tremendous support from their white comrades in arms, which is a story not often told,” Goldman said.

Goldman says his work as a psychiatrist informs his outlook as a historian. He says this use of social status by Civil War veterans is directly linked to the model of civic duty based on military service that American citizens and soldiers continue to model.

“When you fight a war, the reasons why you fight the war may be even more important in peace,” Goldman said. “Because when you come home, you have the gift of survival, as I call it. You have an obligation to those who didn’t come back. Now, a lot of people always talk about that as survivor’s guilt. Yes, there is survivor’s guilt. But over time, it morphs into something quite magnificent, which is survivor obligation. And we see that over and over with veterans.”

The talk was organized by Jim Broomall, director of Shepherd University’s George Tyler Moore Center for the Study of the Civil War. He thinks Goldman has a unique viewpoint on history because of his background and work with veterans.

“I’m using 21st century methodologies and insights when looking back at the past, but as long as you’re doing so in a careful, calculated way, I think you can look at the evidence and view it through a different lens,” Broomall said. “I’m more interested in the social and cultural context, someone like Steve, with this training, might see a very different mode of communication that’s grounded in a lot of different forces that I don’t even understand.”

The talk will be at Shepherd University’s Robert C. Byrd Center Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. and is open to the public.