Review (Guest): This Republic of Suffering – Death and the American Civil War

5 Star, Culture, Research, War & Face of Battle
Amazon Page
Amazon Page

Drew Gilpin Faust

5.0 out of 5 stars Closure, or does the Suffering just still go on … ?, March 12, 2014

By Herbert L Calhoun “paulocal”

Quietly, this is an amazing book about the back side of war — the side we pretend not to know is really there at all — the ugly side, the painful side. It is a stunning academic treatise about that side of the “so-called” Civil War that the history books do not speak openly about: what happens once the glorification and breast-beating heroism of war ends?

What happened in the Civil War when that war ended — when the “real work of war” began — is that there were no bands playing; no protocols on how to respect the dead, no systematic way of identifying the bodies. Gawkers and wives were roaming the battle fields together in search of trinkets they could sell, or looking for their loved ones. The lucky dead had a letter or a picture in their breast pockets that would later identify them. That way, at least then their loved ones would be allowed the minimum level of closure, but this was not to be the case for most of the dead. Nor, arguably, was it to be the case for a nation that is still in need of closure from the Civil war.

This author tells us that the “real work of war” began when the flesh and stench of 5 million pounds of 620,00 death men and 1 million pounds of the flesh of 3,000 dead horses, all laying out in the hot sun stinking up the “land of the free and home of the brave,” had to be disposed of.

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