FSEM 100RR—First-Year Seminar

When Americans Came Marching Home: The Veteran in US History

Fall 2008

TR 11-12:15

Jeffrey McClurken

Course Description

This course will examine the experiences of soldiers and their families after the Revolution, the Civil War, World War I, World War II, and Vietnam. The class will deal with the homecoming of soldiers, the emotional and physical impact of war, the attempt to reenter civilian life, and the role veterans played in politics and society. While the course will be centered on the soldiers and their families, it will also emphasize postwar societies and cultures.

Course Requirements

Students are expected to attend all classes, read all assigned texts, participate in all class discussions, write two papers, keep a weekly blog, conduct an interview with an American veteran, and constructively comment on the ideas and writings put forth by and in the seminar.

Final Grades

Final grades will be determined based on class participation (40%), performance on the first paper (10%), the weekly blog postings and comments (20%), a rewrite of two blog postings (10%), and the interview assignment and a paper based on the interview (30%). Both papers require mandatory revisions. [Note that the grading has changed per the class vote on Oct. 28.]


Class participation includes actively participating in our daily discussions. Each of you will also be expected to co-lead group discussion with another person (or persons) during two weeks. I will be happy to meet with these leaders ahead of time to talk about how to facilitate discussion for their particular week.

Reading List — From Bookstore

Fussell, Paul. Doing Battle: The Making of a Skeptic, 1996.

Gambone, Michael D. The Greatest Generation Comes Home: The Veteran in American Society, 2003.

Keene, Jennifer. Doughboys, the Great War, and the Remaking of America, 2003.

Kovic, Ron. Born on the Fourth of July, 1976.

Logue, Larry. To Appomattox and Beyond: The Civil War Soldier in War and Peace, 1996.

Watkins, Sam. Co. Aytch: A Confederate Memoir of the Civil War, 1881.

Blog Postings and Comments

Your grade includes regular and consistent contributions to online blogs. The course blog is located here and each of you will need to create your own blog at [If you already have a blog that you’d like to use, talk to me about how also to use that preexisting blog for this course.] These online spaces will be employed largely as a place to react to and discuss our readings, but it will also be used in a variety of ways–an assignment location, a place to discuss your project and the projects of others. Ultimately the goal is to allow you to create a shared space where you can display your work and begin to reflect on your learning, an electronic portfolio of your time in this class, and hopefully in connections to other courses as well. [Additional information on creating and editing a blog can be found at]

You are expected to attend each class having read the assigned material and having posted on your blog a brief reaction to the readings (1-2 paragraphs). These blog postings may also include links to, and comments on, materials on veteran and veteran families in the news. I will read your blogs and briefly comment at times on your postings. You are expected to comment on at least two of your classmates’ blogs each week. At the end of the semester, you’ll have the chance to revise your two favorite postings from the semester to submit to me for separate graded evaluation. Ten percent of the overall course grade will be based on the quality of the ideas and writings in those two postings. Register for a blog and make your first posting (a brief introduction of yourself and your interest in this course) by class time on Thursday, August 28, emailing me with your blog name. Comment on at least two other people’s blogs by Monday, September 1.

Interview Assignment

Each of you will need to interview an American veteran, following the guidelines established by the Veterans History Project at the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress ( You will then use that interview as the basis for your second paper. You must turn in your interview notes with the second paper. [For extra credit, you can also submit your interview to the Veterans History Project, something I encourage each of you to do.] You should record your interview in any case, something for which I can provide advice (and potentially recording devices).

Papers – All with 1-inch margins, 12-point font and double spacing

1) Comparison of Revolutionary and Civil War veterans (3-4 pages). Graded after a peer review, a meeting with the instructor, and a rewrite.

2) Paper based on interview with an American veteran (7-10 pages, plus foot/endnotes & works-cited bibliography). Graded after peer review, meeting with the instructor, and rewrite.

All submitted papers should be polished, finished versions. Failure to meet this expectation will result in a reduction in the grade for the paper. Papers will be graded on content (including originality and the quality and use of evidence), grammar, and proper formatting (including notes and bibliography).

FSEM Topics

Since this class is in many ways an introduction to college as well as a study of American veterans, from time to time we’ll go over topics and skills related to a successful college experience. See the calendar below and the FSEM Topics tab above for more details.

Class Calendar

Week 1 — Introduction — Week of August 25

— The Veteran in American History

Reading — Thursday: On readings tab of course blog: The Wages of War, Prologue

Week 2 — Revolutionary War, Part 1 — Week of September 1

Context: Who were Revolutionary Veterans?

Reading — Tuesday: Four selections from Joseph Plumb Martin’s diary (under Readings tab).

Thursday: The Wages of War, Ch. 1-2

(TH) FSEM TOPIC #1 — Reading Secondary Sources in Social Science Classes — Read link under FSEM Topics tab

Week 3 — Revolutionary War, Part 2 — Week of September 8

Topics: Veterans’ “Organizations”–Officers: Newburgh Conspiracy and the Society of the Cincinnati; Enlisted Men: Impoverished Veterans and Shays’ Rebellion

Reading — Tuesday: Under Readings tab: The Wages of War, Ch. 3-5

(TU) FSEM TOPIC #2 — Leading Discussions

Thursday: Under Readings tab: John Resch, Suffering Soldiers, 1-10, 65-92, 197-201, 210-231

(TH) FSEM TOPIC #3 — Reading Charts — (Review Resch, 210-231)

Week 4 — The Civil War, Part 1 — Week of September 15

Context: Yankee and Confederate Soldiers; Civil War Soldiers and PTSD

Reading — Tuesday: Sam Watkins, Co. Aytch, Ch. 1-12

Thursday: Sam Watkins, Co. Aytch, Ch. 13-17, Larry Logue, To Appomattox and Beyond, 3-82

(TH) FSEM TOPIC #4 — Plagiarism & Citing Sources — Read link on class blog under FSEM Topics


Compare the postwar experiences and perspectives of veterans of the Revolution and the Civil War. Be sure to use specific examples from class discussions, readings and Martin and Watkins’s memoirs. [Rewrite due October 7.]

Week 5 — The Civil War, Part 2 — Week of September 22

Topics: Pensions and Politics, Veterans’ Groups and National Reconciliation

Reading — Tuesday: Logue, To Appomattox and Beyond, 82-148.

Thursday: Under Readings tab: Wages of War, Ch. 9, 11, 12

(TH) FSEM TOPIC #5 — Digital Tools for Research — Zotero and

Week 6 — World War I, Part 1 — Week of September 29

Context: Fighting in the Trenches in the “Great War”; War Psychiatry and the “Discovery” of Shell Shock; The American Legion

Reading — Tuesday: Jennifer Keene, Doughboys, the Great War, and the Remaking of America, Preface, 1-34; Diary of Alvin York,

Thursday: Jennifer Keene, Doughboys, the Great War, and the Remaking of America, 132-205.

Week 7 — World War I, Part 2 — Week of October 6

Topics: The Great Depression, the Veterans Bureau, and the Bonus March

Reading — Tuesday: Under Readings tab: Wages of War, Ch. 15-18

(TU) FSEM TOPIC #6 — Research, Note-taking, and Organizing Papers


Week 8 — World War II, Part 1 — Week of October 13

Fall Break — No class Tuesday, October 14

Context: Fighting the Dictators?: WWII Soldiers’ Ideology and Motivation

Reading — Thursday: Paul Fussell, Doing Battle, To the Reader, 1-8, 41-48, 65-169 [Including images]; Michael Gambone, Greatest Generation Comes Home, 10-37

Week 9 — World War II, Part 2 — Week of October 20

Topics: Unfounded Fears: Returning Soldiers and the Post-1945 Economy; Veterans and McCarthyism

Reading — Tuesday: Paul Fussell, Doing Battle, 171-217, 284-299

Thursday: Michael Gambone, Greatest Generation Comes Home, 38-89


Week 10 — World War II, Part 3 — Week of October 27

Topics: Minority and Female Veterans Come Home; Veterans in Film

Reading — Tuesday: Gambone, Greatest Generation Comes Home, Ch. 4-6, 8; Under Readings tab, Wages of War, Ch. 20.

(TU) FSEM TOPIC #7 — History Goes to the Movies

Thursday: Movie instead of regular class meeting Thursday, October 30 — Chandler 102 — 6-9:15 pm


Week 11 — Vietnam, Part 1 — Week of November 3

Context: American Combat Soldiers: A Working-Class War?; My Lai, Veterans and Anti-War Sentiment

Reading — Tuesday: Ron Kovic, Born on the Fourth of July, 1-93

Thursday: Ron Kovic, Born on the Fourth of July, 96-224

Week 12 — Vietnam, Part 2 — Week of November 10

Topics: Economic and Social Reintegration; Addictions, Agent Orange, and PTSD

Reading — Tuesday: Under Readings tab: Wages of War, Ch. 23-27

Thursday: Under Readings tab: Kurt Piehler, Remembering War the American Way, 154-182.


The final paper will be based on the interview, but asks you to integrate your interviewee’s experiences into the larger context of US veterans’ experiences. How did your veteran’s life compare and contrast with the experiences of others we discussed? Would he/she say that his/her experiences were typical? In what ways? [Rewrite due Tuesday, December 2]

Week 13 — Week of November 17

Context: America’s Female Veterans

Reading — Tuesday & Thursday: Selections from the Veterans History Project (

Context: Veterans of Other Wars – French & Indian, Spanish-American, Korean War

Week 14 — Week of November 24

— Thanksgiving — No Class

Reading — Tuesday: Michael Gambone, Greatest Generation Comes Home, Ch. 7; Under Readings tab: Wages of War, Ch. 6-8, 13-14, 21-22

Week 15 — Week of December 1

— Discussion: Thinking About the American Veteran Over 200 Years

Reading — Tuesday: No reading — Discuss interviews

Thursday: Michael Gambone, Greatest Generation Comes Home, 3-10 (review pp. 10-14); Under Readings tab: Wages of War, Epilogue

Exam Period — Noon-2:30, Tuesday, Dec. 9 — Looking back & forward — A discussion of the history of American veterans, the liberal arts & digital tools