There clearly is not one single role that a veteran of war takes, or is expected to take. Soldiers returning from war all have different agendas, as well as separate ways of dealing with the things that they have experienced while on the front. One thing that connects them all are their common memories of brutal conflict which only they have the means to understand. No one who has not participated in war themselves could possibly comprehend the scope of these memories, both good and bad, with which the soldier is left to deal even after the fighting has long been over. It unites them in a way that nothing else can. How the men choose to apply their memories to their lives after war is not universal, however. This paper will explore the role of one veteran in a case study of Horatio Collins King, a well-respected Civil War soldier who chose to apply his memories to the cause of veteran's rights and the memorialization of his fallen comrades.
The choices that King made with how to live his life were based on many things, including the memories that carried over from his childhood, his military service from 1862-65, and the strong influence of his father. Raised by a man with four family members who had fought in the Revolutionary War for the freedom of our Nation, King had a strong sense of patriotism and concern for the fate of the nation instilled in him from an early age by his father. Throughout his childhood he had been exposed to the country's political system as a result of his father's career, and it was only natural for him to follow in his footsteps and become politically active after the completion of his military service. His experiences in the war caused him to reevaluate his priorities, and being strongly affected by the loss of his friends and the status of the returning veterans of the war, he quickly became involved in multiple organizations. Through these groups, King was able to work to memorialize and argue to further the rights of veterans.
A reporter once described King as follows: "about five feet eleven inches in height, compactly built, with no superfluous flesh, and weighs about one hundred and sixty pounds. His eyes are blue, his complexion fair, his hair dark brown, and his mustache sandy. His manners are always genial, and he has hosts of friends."1 Resembling a caring grandfather-type, King nonetheless commanded respect and won admiration from his peers. He was able to get along easily with most people, and this enabled him to deal with all members of society, regardless of social or political status, which was important in his career. A modest man, King was never one to place a lot of credit on himself, and he often denied that he did much to advance the status of veterans at all. A winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor for his service in the war, he rarely discussed the award or the events that led to his receiving it, and much of the time was quoted saying that he did not not feel he deserved such an honor.
King's remembrance of war led him to put his feelings and memories to use in aiding his fellow soldiers through life after the war, and memorializing the fallen through his work on various committees and associations. He was proud of his service to his country in the war, and felt that the nation should respect and have pride in the veterans as he did. He was not ashamed of having fought for the safety of the Union. This paper will explore the life of Horatio Collins King, and investigate how his childhood and memories of his service in the Civil War shaped his life from 1866 until his death following the end of World War I in 1918.
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