This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War (Vintage Civil War Library)

This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War (Vintage Civil War Library)

Drew Gilpin Faust

Language: English

Pages: 346

ISBN: 0375703837

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

More than 600,000 soldiers lost their lives in the American Civil War. An equivalent proportion of today's population would be six million. In This Republic of Suffering, Drew Gilpin Faust reveals the ways that death on such a scale changed not only individual lives but the life of the nation, describing how the survivors managed on a practical level and how a deeply religious culture struggled to reconcile the unprecedented carnage with its belief in a benevolent God. Throughout, the voices of soldiers and their families, of statesmen, generals, preachers, poets, surgeons, nurses, northerners and southerners come together to give us a vivid understanding of the Civil War's most fundamental and widely shared reality.

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soldier might have had to endure but, more importantly, because an easy death suggested the calmness, resignation, and quick passage to heaven that the bereaved so eagerly hoped for as they contemplated the fate of their lost kin.37 Peaceful acceptance of God’s will, even when it brought death, was an important sign of one’s spiritual condition. But if resignation was necessary for salvation, it was not sufficient. Condolence letters detailed evidence of sanctified behavior that absent relatives

Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861–1865, (Harrisburg, Pa.: B. Singerly, 1869–71), vol. 1, pp. iv–v. 13. Higginson, Massachusetts in the Army and Navy, vol. 1, p. 568; Silas Felton, “Introduction,” in Hewett, ed., Roster of Union Soldiers, vol. 1, p. 29. 14. A recent study by James David Hacker identifies other problems in Confederate records, arguing that southern deaths from diarrhea and dysentery have been seriously undercounted and that total numbers of war deaths should be increased from 258,000

shot after the negroes were finished. Next day they were thrown into a wagon, hauled to the Ouchita river and thrown in. Some were hardly dead—that made no difference—in they went.”23 Even black teamsters or servants working for the federals were at risk, and male slaves suspected of fleeing to join the Union army were more than fair game for Confederate rage. A Confederate major described an incident in which black civilians accompanying Union troops were slaughtered. “The battle-field was

negroes and their officers.”25 In the case of black soldiers and the officers who surrendered the privileges of whiteness by consenting to lead them, “propriety” seemed all too often to dictate murder. Killing was not simply justified but almost required, even when such action demanded suspension of fundamental rules of war and humanity. In practice, it would prove impossible for Confederates to maintain a policy of killing all black prisoners, at least in part because of threatened Union

of his material from his spiritual appendages. “The sudden severing of the mortal from the spirit leg caused pain, which lasted some minutes after the material leg had been amputated.” His amputation had been a kind of pre-death, a forerunner of the disjunction of material body and spirit yet to come. Wilkins and his brother helpfully provided readers with an explanation of the relationship of body and soul, as well as the assurance that no man, and indeed not even any leg, was truly lost.29

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