Site Overlay

Remembrance as History

The sheer volume of surviving writings by those citizen and professional soldiers who experienced the Civil War firsthand is immense. Accounts in diaries, letters, periodicals and books stand as a testament to those turbulent times. Such remembrances have profoundly shaped how we think about the war.

Author Vincent L. Burns taps this material in Voices of the Army of the Potomac: Personal Reminiscences of Union Veterans. Burns explains his fascination with these writings this way: “The concern here is what these men from long ago wrote down in letters and diaries as they experienced the historic event that was the Civil War. Also, this concerns what they later remembered—or chose to remember—and then wrote in remembrances as the years passed and they grew older.”

Burns, who researched and wrote The Fifth New York Cavalry in the Civil War (McFarland & Company, 2013) holds a masters degree in American History from the University of Memphis. In this regimental history, Burns makes space for the troopers to tell their stories.

In Voices, Burns further elevates the remembrances. He careful curates passages from veterans highlighting how they felt and what they experienced. The Army of the Potomac is a convenient framework to order the accounts chronologically. Representative remembrances range from senior officers and statesman to soldiers on the front lines.

The resulting distillation of accounts, connected by Burns’s contextual narrative, succeeds in its mission. Praised by reviewers, Voices was a finalist in the annual Army Historical Foundation Distinguished Writing Awards.

Voices helps us remember, as Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. veteran of the 20th Massachusetts Infantry and Supreme Court Associate Justice, observed, “I see them now, more than I can remember, as once I saw them on this earth.”

We can, too.

Voices of the Army of the Potomac: Personal Reminiscences of Union Veterans
By Vincent L. Burns
384 pages
Casemate Publishers
Softcover (available through major booksellers and

SPREAD THE WORD: We encourage you to share this story on social media and elsewhere to educate and raise awareness. If you wish to use any image on this page for another purpose, please request permission.

LEARN MORE about Military Images, America’s only magazine dedicated to showcasing, interpreting and preserving Civil War portrait photography.

VISIT OUR STORE to subscribe, renew a subscription, and more.

Scroll Up