Friday, January 29, 2010

Death and the American Civil War

That's the subtitle of Drew Gilpin Faust's acclaimed 2008 book This Republic of Suffering. (And yes, I know I've already posted on it once!) For genealogists in particular it is interesting to know that the war began without any systematic plan for reporting casualties and deaths.

Today it's taken for granted that a warmaking government is responsible to account for the dead to their survivors. "But in 1861, neither the Union nor the Confederate government recognized this as a responsibility." {103} And in practice the plans that were improvised left many thousands of dead never specifically accounted for. Faust writes, "It was in some sense information as much as individuals that was 'missing' in Civil War America." Read the whole thing.

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