The armistice was signed, most of the men were coming home, but, writes Hagedorn (Beyond the River, 2003, etc.), “the nation was not demobilizing for peace, but in fact preparing for the next heroic campaign.”
Hagedorn writes that the immediate aftermath of the Allied victory in Europe was the onset of a paranoid anti-communism, of anti-all-things-un-Americanism, in fact, in which domestic spying was at a level about which the current attorney general can thus far only dream. All were suspect. When, shortly after the armistice, Woodrow Wilson left Washington to lobby for a League of Nations, an opposition senator urged that the president had abandoned the country and should be considered merely another citizen abroad. African-Americans who marched against lynching were pegged as dangerous radicals, while returning African-American soldiers, Wilson himself proclaimed, were perhaps “the greatest medium in carrying Bolshevism to America.” Suffragists were assumed to be foreign agents; politicians and parents who requested news of a lost American column deep inside Russia, fighting Bolshevism in its homeland, accumulated thick files. It was a time of the Palmer Raids, of J. Edgar Hoover’s debut, of a widespread disregard for constitutional niceties in the zealous quest to purge America of domestic enemies. Admittedly, writes Hagedorn, the anti-communists had something to worry about; after all, thousands of returning soldiers, disillusioned by war, were jobless even as formerly thriving war industries were laying off workers; black Americans were getting sick of Jim Crow and lynching; women were pressing for the right to vote. Apart from a few heroes such as Hiram Johnson and Oliver Wendell Holmes, the government seemed to be set against every American ideal—and things became still worse in 1920.
Fluently written, constantly surprising—and timely, in a between-the-lines sort of way.