Tuesday, January 6, 2009

This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War by Drew Gilpin Faust~★★★★★

Author: Drew Gilpin Faust
Title: This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War
Release Date: January 8th, 2008
Publisher: Knopf
Genre: Non-Fiction

Book Jacket: "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..."

Taryn's Review: This book really opened up the Civil War to me as more than the battles and military tactics that dominate the field. The social toll the war had was great, mostly in the realm of death. Faust did a fantastic job at discussing the topic of death in readable chapters titled "Dying," "Burying," "Naming," etc. She used an abundance of primary sources and some of the descriptions of the fields after a battle will make your stomach turn. Illustrations are also littered throughout the book and some of them are haunting.
This was no way a 'happy' read, but it's one that I would recommend for anyone who has any interest in the Civil War. All too often people forget or don't know that this war took more lives than all the previous American wars combined. Faust also took the time to look at how the families and friends of the soldiers dealt with death at home and their realization of how the war altered their worlds forever. You may have to put the book down at times due to the difficult topic, but make sure you finish; it's truly a great and different view on one of America's most talked about historic events.

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