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This Republic of Suffering [Kindle Edition]

Drew Gilpin Faust
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (193 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $16.95
Kindle Price: $11.84
You Save: $5.11 (30%)
Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

More than 600,000 soldiers lost their lives in the American Civil War. An equivalent proportion of today's population would be six million. In This Republic of Suffering, Drew Gilpin Faust reveals the ways that death on such a scale changed not only individual lives but the life of the nation, describing how the survivors managed on a practical level and how a deeply religious culture struggled to reconcile the unprecedented carnage with its belief in a benevolent God. Throughout, the voices of soldiers and their families, of statesmen, generals, preachers, poets, surgeons, nurses, northerners and southerners come together to give us a vivid understanding of the Civil War's most fundamental and widely shared reality.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Battle is the dramatic centerpiece of Civil War history; this penetrating study looks instead at the somber aftermath. Historian Faust (Mothers of Invention) notes that the Civil War introduced America to death on an unprecedented scale and of an unnatural kind—grisly, random and often ending in an unmarked grave far from home. She surveys the many ways the Civil War generation coped with the trauma: the concept of the Good Death—conscious, composed and at peace with God; the rise of the embalming industry; the sad attempts of the bereaved to get confirmation of a soldier's death, sometimes years after war's end; the swelling national movement to recover soldiers' remains and give them decent burials; the intellectual quest to find meaning—or its absence—in the war's carnage. In the process, she contends, the nation invented the modern culture of reverence for military death and used the fallen to elaborate its new concern for individual rights. Faust exhumes a wealth of material—condolence letters, funeral sermons, ads for mourning dresses, poems and stories from Civil War–era writers—to flesh out her lucid account. The result is an insightful, often moving portrait of a people torn by grief. Photos. (Jan. 10)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Those who fret over the state of American universities will embrace this history by Drew Gilpin Faust. Academics appreciate how Faust explains so many social and cultural changes by recentering the story of the war on its massive toll in lives: the estimated 2 percent who died, or 620,000, would be equivalent to 6 million today. She also breaks new ground by reexamining the relationship of the war to modern institutions like the welfare state. Yet Faust constructs This Republic of Suffering in a way that will appeal to every readerâ€"from the Civil War buff to the casual nonfiction reader. Some critics were a little queasy about the book’s level of detail, both in describing death and the lives of its victims. But as more than one reviewer pointed out, for a nation at war, such writing and such reading are a duty.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 3275 KB
  • Print Length: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1 edition (January 8, 2008)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000YJ53O0
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #96,425 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
304 of 315 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
So wrote a stunned and anguished Walt Whitman as he and the rest of the nation struggled to deal with the incredible carnage of the Civil War. In this eagerly awaited (certainly by me!) book, brilliant Civil War scholar Drew Gilpin Faust documents the social, religious, and psychological coping mechanisms adopted by Civil War America.

It's difficult for us today to appreciate just how deadly the Civil War was. The numbers are staggering--620,000 dead soldiers, at least 50,000 dead civilians, an estimated 6 million pounds of human and animal carcasses at Gettysburg, etc--can't convey the concrete horror of a nation living day after day with the shock, disorientation, and despair caused by the bloodiest war in the country's history. The war years surely did transform the nation into a "republic of suffering" (a phrase coined by Frederick Law Olmsted).

Faust argues that the nation tried to keep its head above water by, for example, ritualizing the final moments of wounded soldiers to make them more compatible with mid-nineteenth century models of a "good death"; justifying increasing levels of battlefield slaughter by invoking God, patriotic duty, and justice (which frequently was vengeance); trying to identify and bury bodies of the slain in such a way as to preserve some semblance of their humanity, despite the horrible maiming many of them suffered; creating public and private rituals of mourning; holding "the enemy" accountable for the carnage; and keeping the memory of the slain alive after the war (feeding into Lost Cause sensibilities on the one hand and Bloody Shirt ones on the other). To a certain extent, as Faust acknowledges, similar kinds of coping mechanisms are adopted by Americans during any war.
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98 of 104 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A powerful work on death in the Civil War February 1, 2008
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a powerful book that deals with one aspect of the Civil War in a very different context than normal--death. Many books speak of the sanguinary nature of the Civil War, death due to battlefield trauma as well as death due to disease, accident, and so on. But this book, written by Drew Gilpin Faust, addresses death on a much broader basis. As a result, this is a powerful work.

One simple fact to begin: the number of Civil War soldiers who died is about equal to the number of American dead from the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Mexican War, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, and Korea combined. The focus of the book is briefly stated at the outset (Page xv): "Beginning with individuals' confrontation with death and dying, the book explores how those experiences transformed society, culture, and politics in what became a broader republic of shared suffering."

Each chapter has a poignancy that is almost palpable. Chapter 1 focuses on the dying by soldiers. The effort to die a good death was one that manifest itself for many a soldier--Yankee and Rebel. One interesting issue--soldiers appeared to fear death by disease more than death in the heat of combat. Soldiers often carried letters to battle, containing their last words to families and loved ones in case they perished. This is an eye opening chapter.

Chapter 2 deals with the other side of the coin--killing the enemy. Many were torn by their Biblical desire to avoid killing others versus their duty to try to do so. Killing others sometimes changed troops, numbing human feeling and producing aftereffects.

Chapter 3 addresses burying the dead. After battles, there was often little time and the dead were buried in mass graves, often with no identification (no dog tags then).
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68 of 74 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The CW from a different perspective June 7, 2008
"The Republic of Suffering" began with a focus on death and dying in the Civil War for the soldiers, their families, and civilians. It put forth some interesting commentary on the Victorian concept of the "good death" and how it influenced the soldiers' preparation for and acceptance of their fate. The text offered insight into the minds and attitudes of the time as well as some traditions and practices not explicitly discussed in detail in other CW books.

Halfway through, the author seemed to leave the battlefield and meander off into a history of the mortuary business and short bios and commentary of late 19th century authors like Dickenson and Melville. I found the chapters "Accounting" and "Numbering", which discussed the bureaucracy of death from the military and government perspective, dry and disjointed. That's not to say there weren't points of interest, but the second half of the book just could not keep my attention on an ongoing basis.

The reader will come away disturbed by the detail on the carnage and the paucity of information available to the families fretting over loved ones fighting the battles. They will also gain knowledge of the influence the war had on shaping the modern practices of handling death. "The Republic of Suffering" has its place in augmenting one's understanding of the Civil War. I struggled between three and four stars and would have given a three-and-a-half if I could have.
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Unique Window into the Civil War January 28, 2008
Drew Faust's "This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War" offers a look into the Civil War that is truly unique -- the impact of death as a phenomenon upon individuals (whose reactions ranged from horror and refusal of participating in killing to gleeful celebrations of killing), and upon America as a society and culture. I don't believe there is a significant aspect of the subject left unexplored; Ms. Faust even discusses its effects upon the poetry of Emily Dickinson as well as the creation of National Cemeteries and of the rise of embalming as a practical business. The unprecedented level of carnage sent shock waves through the American populace for decades afterwards, and even helped define inter-racial and inter-gender relations. "This Republic of Suffering" is obviously not your standard Civil War history, but it is a book that nonetheless should be of great interest to any serious, thoughtful student of that conflict.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A Grim But Important Subject
Most Americans today look at the civil war as being ancient history. They don't understand that just because the war was fought in the 19th century the effects of it still... Read more
Published 20 days ago by Janet Chandler
5.0 out of 5 stars The Origins of the Good Death
Beautiful book, but what else would you expect from Faust? A model for how to write compelling and accessible academic histories.
Published 1 month ago by SassyNerd
5.0 out of 5 stars Closure, or does the Suffering just still go on ... ?
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. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Herbert L Calhoun
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Book
A fascinating book about Civil War death, & the awful suffering of family members back home trying to locate their loved ones lost on the battle fields--war casualties both living... Read more
Published 1 month ago by NHBunion
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Book!
This is one of the finest works on the Civil War. Faust covers a topic that, surprisingly enough, is rarely covered in this much detail. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Colleen Browne
2.0 out of 5 stars This is so depressing
The title is the first hint at the sad and depressing topic. The civil war was the most horrific time in our country's history, and the loss of life, all U.S. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Dawn Dunk
5.0 out of 5 stars Really interesting
A fascinating look at death and the changes that the Civil War brought to the act of dying. Many of us do not give this topic much thought as we prefer to avoid death in general. Read more
Published 2 months ago by D
3.0 out of 5 stars Repetitious
I love the history of the Civil War, but I find this book difficult to keep my continuing interest. A little bit of how it feels to kill and die goes a very long way. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Diane C
5.0 out of 5 stars A Winner
For those who prefer in-depth treatment of the subject, this book is a winner. A very thorough examination of an aspect of the Civil War experience that is not often appreciated.
Published 2 months ago by Gerry Curry
4.0 out of 5 stars This Republic of Suffering
Drew Gilpin Faust writes a comprensive overview of the rituals and practices of the "ars moriendi" or "art of death" and how the concept was transformed by the... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Phil
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