The American Civil War claimed the most lives out of any conflict the United States has ever been in. The losses suffered during this war were unlike anything the country had ever seen. About two percent of the United States population died in uniform. That amount sums up to about 620,000 and totals the death tolls from the American Revolution to the Korean War.
In today's population, this number would equal about six million fatalities (Faust xi). These numbers, however, do not tell the full story. Scores of diseases, shortages of food, and total warfare left lasting effects on society, culture, and politics of both sides. Drew Gilpin Faust's book, This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War, shows the horrifying realities of death and suffering in the costliest conflict in the history of the United States. The shared grief and suffering in the Civil War transformed Northern and Southern society, culture, and politics.
In the Civil War era, society gave several preconceived notions on the proper way that life should end. This prompted soldiers to be better prepared to die honorably rather than kill an enemy. Since dying was considered an art, there was a strong concept of a Good Death in mid-nineteenth-century America.
This idea was based off the tradition of ars moriendi, a pair of Latin texts that gave some ethical guidelines for a Good Death based on Christian ideals of the late Middle Ages. For many, an honorable death took priority over killing in one's moral compass (Faust 6).
The brutality of the Civil War challenged many of these common practices. In many cases, soldiers found quick and horrifying deaths. Sudden death embodied an intense threat to cornerstone ideas about the correct way to die, and its regularity on the frontline showed the transition in the expectations of a soldier's demise (Faust 18).
Fellow soldiers, doctors, and nurses would often try to write home to loved ones of the deceased, attempting to mend the fissures war had introduced into the fabric of the Good Death in order to link the battlefront and the home (Faust 15). These condolence letters would attempt to acknowledge the deceased's profession of faith. Since many soldiers died suddenly, they were deprived of the chance for the life-defining deathbed experience, where many servicemen would otherwise reveal the status of their souls in their last days of life (Faust 18).
[...] New York: Alfred A. Knopf Print. [...]
[...] Drew Gilpin Faust's book, This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War, shows the horrifying realities of death and suffering in the costliest conflict in the history of the United States. The shared grief and suffering in the Civil War transformed Northern and Southern society, culture, and politics. In the Civil War era, society gave several preconceived notions on the proper way that life should end. This prompted soldiers to be better prepared to die honorably rather than kill an enemy. [...]
[...] How could the Good Lord allow such suffering and death to exist? The revolutionary technology and tactics brought many destructive consequences. With all the death and carnage, people looked for answers. Previous religious beliefs became challenged by some, while others reaffirmed their core values (Faust 172). Many victims and survivors saw the afterlife as an “eternal family reunion” (Faust 180). With all the macabre conflict and constant suffering, the death of a soldier was an outlet for many as “God's design of freedom” and the “vehicle of salvation” (Faust 189). [...]
[...] Dehumanizing the enemy was a common method of breaking down restraints on killing the enemy. On the Northern side, it helped soldiers quell the rebellion. For the Confederates, it served a critical role in their ruthless treatment against African-American soldiers. No mercy was shown to African-Americans, as in the massacre at Fort Pillow, as many Southern soldiers saw that “slavery required subordination and control, and arming men elevated and empowered them” (Faust 45). African-American soldiers addressed the conflict and violence of the Civil War differently than the average white man. [...]
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