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This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War (Vintage Civil War Library) Paperback – 6 Jan 2009

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Product details

  • Paperback: 346 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Inc; Reprint edition (6 Jan. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375703837
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375703836
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 1.9 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 150,404 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mick Yerman on 16 Oct. 2011
Format: Paperback
THIS REPUBLIC OF SUFFERING: DEATH AND THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR
by Drew Gilpin Faust

"Narratives of the Good Death could not annul the killing that war required. Nor could they erase the unforgettable scenes of battlefield carnage that made soldiers question both the humanity of those slaughtered like animals and the humanity of those who had wreaked such devastation." (p.31)

The morbid inquiry of the American Civil War Dead is a task of levity and exasperation; not just of the amount of information to be processed, but also of the nature of what is being studied. Drew G. Faust's stellar undertaking focuses on the several aspects of death in the American Civil War: Dying, Killing, Burying, Naming, Realizing, Believing and Doubting, Accounting, Numbering, and Surviving. The author makes concise the relevant material to 272 pages (not incl. Notes), a hugely admirable achievement considering the task at hand and the insight and reflection required to deal with the topic. She has trawled through scores of personal letters from soldiers - those that feared death (and then met it) and also those who lay dying after being wounded - from the family of those who died (those of Henry Ingersoll Bowditch were particularly moving), and a plethora of other sources that completes the detailing of how soldiers died, what soldiers thought about dying, how their loved ones dealt with it, but also State and private obligations to burying the dead, and their arduous attempts to profile and honour the deaths of those who had fallen. Faust covers the whole spectrum here, from both the Union and Confederate sides.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Diane Creel on 5 April 2011
Format: Paperback
The photographs are incredibly moving. I found myself looking at some of the faces for a long time, trying to understand what it must have been like. The stories about fathers searching for sons, and mothers making sure they were properly remembered, were so sad. This book made me think and it also made me cry. Drew Gilpin Faust has written a gripping and utterly compassionate book about the American Civil War. Buy it and read it. You will not regret it. It should be on the shelf of anyone with an interest in war, both present and past.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Speedster on 3 Nov. 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Brilliant book. Hard to read at times as it is upsetting, but absolutely riveting. Well-researched and written and accompanied by plenty of Library of Congress photos. This book gives a gritty insight into the deathly reality of war, for both soldiers and their families.
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By C. Ball TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 16 May 2013
Format: Paperback
Amongst the hundreds of thousands of books written on the American Civil War, this one really stands out. Rather than a narrative or military history, Faust has written an incredibly moving, elegiac book about how the unimaginable scale of death during the Civil War fundamentally changed not just the mourners of the dead, but the nation as a whole. As he writes, "We still live in the world of death the Civil War created. We take for granted the obligation of the state to account for the lives it claims in its service. The absence of next-of-kin notification, of graves registration procedures, of official provision for decent burial all seem to us unimaginable, even barbaric."

Faust takes a thematic approach, looking at the concept of death in the Civil War from every conceivable angle - how the soldiers died and how they killed; how they were identified after death; how they were mourned and how their families and friends struggled to find some meaning in their deaths; how the survivors came to hold the nation accountable from the debt owed to the soldiers; the ongoing struggle to come up with reliable statistics for both the military and the civilian deaths.

He particularly focuses on the importance of the notion of the 'Good Death', that it wasn't just the fact of death that was important, but how one faced it - soberly, fearlessly, with Christian resolve and determination to do one's duty, and final words or thoughts of family and loved ones and a final reunion in Heaven. In a world today scarred by WW1 and the final blasting of the concept of 'pro patria mori', it's moving and not a little humbling to read about an entire generation of men (and women) who faced their own sacrifices so courageously.
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