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This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War

3.99  ·  Rating Details ·  4,625 Ratings  ·  489 Reviews
During the Civil War, 620,000 soldiers lost their lives--equivalent to six million in today's population. This Republic of Suffering explores the impact of the enormous death toll from material, political, intellectual, and spiritual angles. Drew Gilpin Faust delineates the ways death changed not only individual lives, but the life of the nation, and describes how a deeply ...more
Audio CD, 8 pages
Published March 15th 2008 by Blackstone Audiobooks (first published January 1st 2008)
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Matt
Apr 21, 2009 Matt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Through our great good fortune, in our youth our hearts were touched with fire. It was given to us to learn at the outset that life is a profound and passionate thing. While we are permitted to scorn nothing but indifference, and do not pretend to undervalue the worldly rewards of ambition, we have seen with our own eyes, beyond and above the gold fields, the snowy heights of honor, and it is for us to bear the report to those who come after us. But, above all, we have learned that whether a ma ...more
brian
you know that very un-scientific statistic about how the average male thinks about sex once every two minutes? well, triple that and replace 'sex' with 'death' and that's me. at the age of twelve, i'm certain woody allen used me as the basis for his character in Hannah and her Sisters. and ol' leo prolly based levin on me, as well! while other kids were stroking it to penthouse, i was rocking back and forth in fetal position from too many re-readings of the Grand Inquisitor section of The Brothe ...more
Bruce
Aug 08, 2013 Bruce rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Over 600,000 deaths occurred as the result of the Civil War. Drew Faust has explored this fact to gain perspective and understanding not only of that conflict but of the legacy that was left to us today. Let me briefly summarize each of her chapters, giving a sense of the book’s content.

Chapter 1 – Dying. During the mid-19th century, when most deaths occurred at home and surrounded by loved ones, there was the Victorian concept of a Good Death – alert and aware, willing to let go, surrounded by
...more
David
Nov 22, 2008 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's well known that there were huge numbers of casualties during the Civil War. But what lies behind the numbers? Every single death represents a life - a son, a husband, a brother. What were the faces and feelings and experiences behind the numbers?

This book considers aspects of death and dying and suffering I would never have thought of: the emotions of the soldiers anticipating possible death as they go into battle; the mental or emotional adjustments involved in learning to kill; the desire
...more
Steve
Aug 13, 2008 Steve rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Steve by: Karen
Shelves: non-fiction, history, war
Drew Gilpin Faust’s The Republic of Suffering is a necessary, and long overdue, cultural history of a largely ignored aspect of the Civil War. Basically, it’s a history of Death on a massive scale in what many historians view as the first modern war, and how society (or societies – North and South) dealt with such losses. There were of course differences in how the North and South did deal with such losses, especially when it came to locating bodies for reburial. For the North, location and rebu ...more
Lizzie
About America's national PTSD in the wake of the Civil War. More than 600,000 soldiers died - an equivalent proportion of today's population would be six million. That doesn't include the wounded, and civilian casualties. Americans had to realize the enormity of what had happened to their country, to every family, to do the work of burying, naming, accounting, and numbering.

Both sides assumed the conflict would last a couple of months. Neither planned for care of the wounded, housing prisoners,
...more
Karla
The book succeeds despite, not because of, the audiobook narrator. Lorna Raver's highly exaggerated enunciation and cadence worked my last nerve for most of it. By the end, it improved. In the way that the last 30 minutes of a root canal improves. Cuz it'll all be over soon.... So if you have the choice of book vs audio, I'd suggest the book. Unfortunately my library only had the audio.

That said, I enjoyed the history and all the different aspects of death during the Civil War, from the practica
...more
trickgnosis
Jan 27, 2009 trickgnosis rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: civil-war
If I were being mean, I might say that Faust writes like an administrator--she is the president of Harvard--but instead I'll just say that she seems to prefer details to narrative and is reluctant to use just one or two pertinent examples when she can use a half dozen. Occasionally this is effective at indicating the scope of Civil War carnage but often it drags the book down. The chapter on "accounting" is the longest in the book and really slows down the pace in the latter half of the book. Th ...more
Joyce Lagow
Apr 20, 2010 Joyce Lagow rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, gettysburg
Quiet is the word that comes to mind to describe the writing of Harvard s first female president on the uncommon subject of death. A quiet regard for the over 600,000 men who perished directly due to the unbelievable carnage of the American Civil War.[return][return]There are thousands upon thousands of books written about that war. I have nearly 100 on my shelves. Some are general histories of the conflict, many are written about specific battles such as Gettysburg and Antietam. All every sing ...more
James Murphy
Aug 17, 2009 James Murphy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This seems to me to be such a necessary history that I wonder why it wasn't written until now. About 620,000 men died during the Civil War from combat and disease. An equivalent proportion to our present population would be about 6 million. How does a society cope with such enormous loss? Faust's fascinating book of military and social history attempts to tell how. Simply put, it's a book about death, what it meant in mid-19th century America, and how those huge numbers of military deaths affect ...more
Steven Peterson
Sep 03, 2009 Steven Peterson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Krista
Jan 28, 2008 Krista rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Because I don't buy books these days, I am still "currently-reading"this thing, as the library recalled it before I could finish it. However, I have it on hold again and will finish it because the first few chapters I did manage to read before the city of Kansas City plucked the book so meanly from my hands were eminently readable, interesting and thought-provoking.

Ok. Finally read it. Must say that the preface was much more engaging than the book itself. Not that the book wasn't good; it was ju
...more
Frank Stein
Apr 06, 2012 Frank Stein rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

An odd and insightful look at the meaning and practices of dying in the American Civil War.

Even at its worst, the book is a series of interesting vignettes and anecdotes about the innumerable little tragedies of the war. Not the best social history out there, but still intriguing. At its best, and this is the majority of the book, it is an eye-opening look at a whole other world of living and dying, impossibly distant from our own. For instance, Faust details the strict regulations of mourning d
...more
Rose
Feb 11, 2008 Rose rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Civil War historian Drew Gilpin Faust has written an informative and troubling study of how antebellum Americans adopted and shaped a 'Culture of Death' during the bewildering and staggering carnage of the Civil War.

An estimated 620,000 soldiers were shot, blown apart by cannon fire, or killed by botched battlefield operations during the years that the war raged (1861-65). As the author points out, an equivalent proportion of the current U.S. population would be six million losses. Lincoln beli
...more
Kelly
Harvard president and Civil War scholar Drew Gilpin Faust tackles the most intimate aspects of death during the Civil War in This Republic of Suffering, a groundbreaking new book on the realities of war’s carnage. From the physical bodies on the battlefield, to the “Good Death” and the developing belief in the concept of heaven, to the growth of federal standards for counting and communicating war deaths, Faust delves into aspects of the Civil War that many haven’t considered when thinking about ...more
Christopher
Jun 12, 2017 Christopher rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really wanted to give this 5 stars. It's an exceptionally strong look at how America dealt with death on scale it had never seen before. Faust does a wonderful job of exploring the need for a "good death" and how that influenced countless tales and remembrances of dying soldiers. How the need to make themselves right with God, dispense some wisdom for their family, and utter some remembered final words became almost a template for the dying.

The scale of the carnage soon outstripped the society
...more
David Mclemore
Feb 13, 2013 David Mclemore rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One summer recently, my wife and I took took a drive through the southern United States, stopping off at various sites of Civil War battles and old forts. Up through Savannah, on through the Carolinas and into Virginia and Washington, D.C. Then on to Gettysburg, with stops on the way home to tour the deadly grounds of Antietam, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville.

At each stop, we paused and looked over the killing grounds where young men by the tens of thousands died. Nearby cemeteries spread o
...more
Donald
Jun 26, 2008 Donald rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A surprisingly objective look at the effects of war by a Harvard president that deals with the effects of the then unparalelled deaths that ocurred during the Civil War and how the country dealt with them. Each chapter deals with a different aspect of the deaths:

Dying
Killing
Burying
Naming
Realizing
Believing and Doubting
Accounting
Numbering
Surviving

At 2% of the population, the Civil War death toll was enormous (equivalent to 6 million today), more than all the wars through the Korean War combined. T
...more
Kate
Mar 07, 2008 Kate rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: war-sucks, history
Very powerful book about the trauma of the Civil War and all of the death it created. Because I had a relative in this war (Thomas Brown, US First Sharpshooter, Company F) who left behind letters of his experiences, I was particularly interested in what Faust had to say. I feel like I now have a fuller picture of his experience of this horrible war. I even wrote Faust a fan letter when I was done.
Courtney
Dec 21, 2015 Courtney rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Two topics I'd like to read more about are the American Civil War and the Vietnam War. But I really wasn't in the mood to tackle a 700+ page monster of a book on either. So I came across the fairly slim This Republic of Suffering and decided to give it a go. I don't think we're really taught about the American Civil War here (at least not in detail; I wasn't), so I was hoping I wouldn't get lost reading this, but thankfully that wasn't the case.

This book is not a military history of the war in a

...more
Stan  Prager
Dec 12, 2016 Stan Prager rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Review of: This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War, by Drew Gilpin Faust
by Stan Prager (1-31-16)

Despite recommendations from those in tune with my interests, I went out of my way to avoid reading This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War, by Drew Gilpin Faust. Not only did the topic strike me as too gloomy and depressing, but I questioned the value of a book-length treatment of it. Then fate intervened and a copy came to me from an anonymous yet perspicac
...more
Christopher
In This Republic of Suffering, Drew Faust presents an extensively researched, well-constructed look at the national reaction to the trauma of mass death and suffering in the immediate wake of the American Civil War. Published in 2008 and recently made into a PBS American Experience special, the book is a timely and poignant reminder of the human cost inherent in war.

The book is notable for what it is not. It largely serves as the antidote to that other PBS documentary: Ken Burns’ Civil War. Wher
...more
Caroline
Amongst the hundreds of thousands of books written on the American Civil War, this one really stands out. Rather than a narrative or military history, Faust has written an incredibly moving, elegiac book about how the unimaginable scale of death during the Civil War fundamentally changed not just the mourners of the dead, but the nation as a whole. As he writes, "We still live in the world of death the Civil War created. We take for granted the obligation of the state to account for the lives it ...more
S.
Feb 09, 2008 S. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: the death obsessed
This is the first book of academic non-fiction I’ve read in a long time. The author writes well and, since we’re all preoccupied with death, the topic is fascinating. Still, as much as I enjoyed it, I did find the book haunted by creeping academia, ie one has to be redundant to prove one’s thesis, and to push some points beyond their usefulness.

I did like what I learned about the role of newspapers at the time in helping people hunt information and report it. The part about the fashion of mourn
...more
John
Apr 02, 2015 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
More from my Spring of literary misery. Nothing but depressing history lately. I picked this up at the library (actually I e-borrowed it for the Kindle, 'cause we live in the future!) because Drew Faust intrigues me. She is the first woman to be President of Harvard, and it struck me that historians seem to get these plumb administration jobs relatively frequently, and I wondered what was so great about her work that she goes from historian to Pres of Harvard. And this won the Bancroft so it's g ...more
Chuck
Jun 25, 2013 Chuck rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Drew Gilpin Faust 's "This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War" discusses death in the Civil War. It covers how society saw and dealt with death. The book starts at the pre-war traditions where death was often an intimate affair for the close friends and family. It progresses through how late war and postwar society saw and dealt with the Civil War''s stunningly huge numbers of dead, the impersonal manner of their deaths, and in the industrial way they were handled. The socie ...more
Emily
This Republic of Suffering by Drew Gilpin Faust (the president of Harvard, and a woman, FYI) is a history of the Civil War period that focuses on the devastating death toll of the conflict and its effects on American culture of that time and since. The main threads of the discussion include attitudes of the Victorians towards a "good death," fashionable mourning, and the possibility of people simply disappearing; efforts to properly identify the staggering number of casualties and bodies and dis ...more
Sandra D
Jan 15, 2008 Sandra D rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've studied the Civil War pretty intensively in the past, but I came away from this book thinking, "Wow! I never thought about it like that before!" There were gory parts and sad parts and even some boring parts, but, on the whole, it was very well done and I had to give it five stars for the value of the perspective I gained.

Each chapter covers a specific topic: Dying, Killing, Burying, Naming, Realizing, Believing and Doubting, Accounting, and Numbering. I think the chapter that moved me most
...more
Mary Rose
This book was recommended to me two years ago by my high school American History teacher, a confederate reenacter who is obsessed with bacon. That last part wasn't relevant, but it comes to mind. Anyway, I can see why he recommended it. While the book focuses very little on the actual battle history of the Civil War (you'd better have some idea what the significance of Appomattox and Gettysburg were before you pick it up), it gives an excellent history of the death culture surrounding the civil ...more
Sean
Jan 22, 2011 Sean rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War" is a timely, well researched historical work about how North and South dealt with mass death during the American Civil War. Written by Drew Faust, President of Harvard University, the book engages with profound questions of how the American Civil War. It's a history of the American Civil War that is not focused on battles and commanders but on what could rightly be termed folk history, how individuals and a nation processed the signi ...more
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Untold Stories 2 22 Aug 28, 2016 12:42AM  
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Catherine Drew Gilpin Faust is an American historian, college administrator, and the president of Harvard University
More about Drew Gilpin Faust...

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“Look to the past to help create the future. Look to science and to poetry. Combine innovation and interpretation. We need the best of both. And it is universities that best provide them.” 7 likes
“Richmond's Mrs. William McFarland. "Let us remember that we belong to that sex which was last at the cross, first at the grave…Let us go now, hand in hand, to the graves of our country’s sons, and as we go let our energies be aroused and our hearts be thrilled by this thought: It is the least thing we can do for our soldiers.” 1 likes
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