This Republic of Suffering

Drew Gilpin Faust’s book, This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War artfully gives a new portrayal of the American Civil War. Faust’s covers the most obvious fact of the war in that it produced the highest fatalities ever to be seen in American History. What makes Faust’s book different than any other Civil War book out is his focus on how Americans and their institutions confronted the idea of death, a good death, and how death during the war propelled a new transformation in beliefs, cultural practices, and political structures in America. He states in the beginning, “the presence and fear of death touched Civil War Americans’ most fundamental sense of who they were, for in its threat of termination and transformation, death inevitably inspired self-scrutiny and self-definition” (page xv).

Faust sections her book in away to show the components of death: “dying”, “Killing”, “Burying”, and “Accounting” in hopes of showing how Americans faced cultural transformations with death during the Civil War. The Civil War gives a window into understanding how wartime began to alter, how the romanticism of war death became gruesome, and how to deal with the decay seem a dehumanizing task. She explains further, “In the Civil War death the distinction between men and animals threatened to disappear, just as it was simultaneously eroding in the doctrines of nineteenth-century science” (page vxii).

In agreement with Robert’s post, I agree that Faust found a particular niche that gives new excitement within looking at the Civil War without looking at the military battles. She is able to pull emotion throughout her entire book by using the components of death to further exemplify her focus in showing how death became transformed in the nineteenth century.

I also agreed with 20perez16 in how Faust’s book had similarities with Stephanie Camp’s book in the assessment how groups handled difficult events. Both authors take popular history topics and are able to derive new findings within the field. This also ties in with the objective of our final to understand what the current field is with a particular topic, where it can go, and what sources could assist in pushing it forward.