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This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War [Audiobook] [Audio CD]

Drew Gilpin Faust , Lorna Raver
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

15 Mar 2008
An illuminating study of the American struggle to comprehend the meaning and practicalities of death in the face of the unprecedented carnage of the Civil War.

During the war, approximately 620,000 soldiers lost their lives. An equivalent proportion of today’s population would be six million. This Republic of Suffering explores the impact of this enormous death toll from every angle: material, political, intellectual, and spiritual. The eminent historian Drew Gilpin Faust delineates the ways death changed not only individual lives but the life of the nation and its understanding of the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. She describes how survivors mourned and how a deeply religious culture struggled to reconcile the slaughter with its belief in a benevolent God, pondered who should die and under what circumstances, and reconceived its understanding of life after death.

Faust details the logistical challenges involved when thousands were left dead, many with their identities unknown, on the fields of places like Bull Run, Shiloh, Antietam, and Gettysburg. She chronicles the efforts to identify, reclaim, preserve, and bury battlefield dead, the resulting rise of undertaking as a profession, the first widespread use of embalming, the gradual emergence of military graves registration procedures, the development of a federal system of national cemeteries for Union dead, and the creation of private cemeteries in the South that contributed to the cult of the Lost Cause. She shows, too, how the war victimized civilians through violence that extended beyond battlefields—from disease, displacement, hardships, shortages, emotional wounds, and conflicts connected to the disintegration of slavery.

Throughout, the voices of soldiers and their families, of statesmen, generals, preachers, poets, surgeons, and nurses, of northerners and southerners, slaveholders and freedpeople, of the most exalted and the most humble are brought together to give us a vivid understanding of the Civil War’s most fundamental and widely shared reality.

Were he alive today, This Republic of Suffering would compel Walt Whitman to abandon his certainty that the “real war will never get in the books.”
--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product details

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audiobooks; Unabridged edition (15 Mar 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1433233444
  • ISBN-13: 978-1433233449
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 14.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,736,696 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard-hitting but fascinating 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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant and compassionate 5 April 2011
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Civil War/Death study 16 Oct 2011
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Memento mori 25 Dec 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
If you think your life is tough, read this. A fascinating account of how death was encountered and dealt with during the American civil war.
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