Thursday, October 25, 2012
Title: This Republic of Suffering: Death and the Civil War
Author: Drew Gilpin Faust
Genre: non-fiction, American history, Civil War
I first heard of this book last month when NPR replayed an interview with author Drew Gilpin Faust on September 17, 2012- the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam. Suffering was published in 2008, but the interview was very interesting to listen to. You can listen or read about it here: http://www.npr.org/2012/09/21/161544181/civil-war-historian-drew-gilpin-faust-on-pbs
While most Civil War books and historical groups focus on Civil War strategy and Civil War generals' personalities, Drew Gilpin Faust looks at how the Civil War touched the individual and changed the American culture. Americans had never seen mass slaughter on such a huge scale before the Civil War and unfortunagely the immense loss of life would be a foreshadowing of World War One. The Civil War also brought about the national cemetery system and the next-of-kin notification system- out of necessity to deal with the numerous amounts of unmarked graves and unknown whereabouts of soldiers who had "disappeared" due to being blown up or buried in mass graves or unmarked graves.
But most of all, the Civil War changed the way Americans viewed death. Before the Civil War, a "good death" consisted of dying at home surrounded by family. Dying on the battlefield or from an amputation far from home changed the way Americans perceived and dealth with death. Some Americans' spiritual beliefs would never recover from the events of this war.