2010: 64. This Republic of Suffering

“Mortality defines the human condition.”

This Republic of Suffering:  Death and the American Civil War, Drew Gilpin Faust

     This book falls pretty squarely into my areas of interest.  Written by  Drew Gilpin Faust, now president of Harvard, it is a history of the Civil War, or, more specifically, of death in relation to the Civil War - how the nation grappled with mourning, with the bodies, the cemeteries, how it handled the loss of 600,000.  Since I wrote my college history honors thesis on mourning culture in the post-Civil War North, I could not have been more interested in the topic.  But even if you haven’t already committed a year of your life to the subject matter, any history reader would love this book.  By taking on the issue of Civil War death, Gilpin addresses the war from a whole new angle, and makes you realize how the loss of 600,000 really shaped the nation, addressing both emotional issues - the way that sort of loss affected the nation’s psyche, and logistical ones - how dealing with all those corpses led to some of the biggest Federal efforts up to that time.  It is fascinating, well-written and researched, and yet still accessible to the lay reader.  One of the best books I’ve read this year, for certain. 

Date/Place Completed:  August 2010; D.C.

Categories: Non-Fiction

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017